Gender and Retention Patterns among US Faculty

LGRC (A112)
Start Date
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Women remain underrepresented among faculty in nearly all academic fields in the U.S. However, despite broad interest in measuring, explaining, and mitigating gendered attrition in faculty careers, the scale and heterogeneity of American higher education has impeded a full understanding of its magnitude and variation, and whether men and women leave academia for similar or different reasons. 

Using a census of 245,270 tenure-track and tenured professors at U.S.-based PhD-granting departments, we show that women leave academia overall at higher rates than men at every career age, in large part because of strongly gendered attrition at lower-prestige institutions, in non-STEM fields, and among tenured faculty. These results contrast with the historical focus of studies on high-prestige institutions, on STEM fields, and on pre-tenure faculty. A large-scale survey of the same faculty indicates the reasons faculty leave are gendered, even for institutions, fields, and career ages in which retention rates are not. Specifically, women are more likely to feel pushed from their jobs and less likely to feel pulled towards better opportunities, and women leave or consider leaving due to workplace climate issues more often than work-life balance issues, which is the most popular explanation of gendered faculty attrition. These results (i) quantify the systemic nature of gendered faculty retention, (ii) highlight its variation with career age, institutional prestige, and field, and (iii) sharpen the importance of understanding the gendered reasons for attrition rather than focusing on rates alone. There will be ample time for discussion of the implications of these results for policy and prospects of gender equity. 

This workshop is presented in collaboration with the Manning College of Information and Computer Sciences, the Computation Social Science Institute (CSSI), and the Institute for Social Science Research (ISSR)

Aaron Clauset is a Professor in the Department of Computer Science and the BioFrontiers Institute at the University of Colorado Boulder, and is External Faculty at the Santa Fe Institute. He received a PhD in Computer Science, with distinction, from the University of New Mexico, a BS in Physics, with honors, from Haverford College, and was an Omidyar Fellow at the prestigious Santa Fe Institute. In 2016, he was awarded the Erdos-Renyi Prize in Network Science, and since 2017, he has been a Deputy Editor responsible for the Social, Computing, and Interdisciplinary Sciences at Science Advances.

Clauset is an internationally recognized expert on network science, data science, and machine learning for complex systems. His research program is around two general themes: identifying fundamental principles of the organization and behavior of complex social and biological systems, and developing approaches for using data and computation to illuminate those ideas. A recent major focus of this work has been on the "science of science," where he studies the shape, origins, and consequences of social and epistemic inequalities on scientific careers, productivity, the spread of ideas, and the composition of the scientific workforce. His research results have appeared in many prestigious scientific venues, including Nature, Science, PNAS, SIAM Review, Science Advances, Nature Communications, AAAI, and ICDM. His work has been covered in the popular press by Quanta Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, The Economist, Discover Magazine, Wired, the Boston Globe and The Guardian.