Gender, Family, and Careers in STEM

Early-career male PhDs are more likely to secure jobs than their female counterparts, but having kids hurts men’s chances at landing academic positions more than it hurts women’s, according to a new report.

By | March 6, 2014


Female STEM PhD students are less likely than their male counterparts to find a job soon after graduation, but those who do are more likely to get a job in academia, according to a new report from the American Institutes for Research (AIR). AIR researchers analyzed data from 27,000 respondents to the National Science Foundation’s Survey of Earned Doctorates who in 2009 and 2010 reported having secured jobs at graduation.

Men that did attain academic positions were more likely to land coveted faculty positions than women, the researchers found. Married PhDs were less likely to get academic positions, regardless of gender. Having children didn’t appear to hurt female PhDs’ career prospects—they were just as likely to land academic jobs as their childless peers. Men coming out of PhD programs who had young children, however, were much less likely than childless men to find jobs in academia.

“These results seem to affirm (but also complicate) prior scholarship suggesting that women, overall, may be getting pushed out or may be pulling out of research-intensive and more prestigious academic pathways early in their careers,” the researchers wrote.

“Men are taking care of children and playing a bigger role at home and if we don’t change these policies and practices, men, too, are going to be pushed into other types of career choices,” report coauthor Courtney Tanenbaum, a senior researcher in AIR’s Education Program, told Inside Higher Ed.

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Avatar of: Paul Stein

Paul Stein

Posts: 237

March 7, 2014

If you are hoping that this report will answer any deep questions to what makes any particular person able to be part of the academic "survival of the fittest" to achieve that elusive faculty position, think again.  There are no statistical analyses in the raw numbers.  Also, reading the report, the term "job" includes post-doctorates, of which are around 70-80% of the total.  That's way too much typical scientific career noise and not enough signal to glean anything.

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