“She Wanted to Do Her Research. He Wanted to Talk ‘Feelings.’” is a New York Times article by a science professor, A. Hope Jahren, that describes women abandoning science:
Within my own field, physical sciences, the results of this shedding were clear. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, seven B.S. degrees are granted to women for every 10 granted to men; three M.S. degrees granted to women for every five granted to men; one Ph.D. degree granted to a woman for every two granted to men. The absence of women within STEM programs is not only progressive, it is persistent — despite more than 20 years of programs intended to encourage the participation of girls and women.
Why should this be?
My own experiences as a student, scientist and mentor lead me to believe that [sexual] harassment is widespread. Few studies exist, but in a survey of 191 female fellowship recipients published in 1995, 12 percent indicated that they had been sexually harassed as a student or early professional.
Since I started writing about women and science, my female colleagues have been moved to share their stories with me; my inbox is an inadvertent clearinghouse for unsolicited love notes. Sexual harassment in science generally starts like this: A woman (she is a student, a technician, a professor) gets an email and notices that the subject line is a bit off: “I need to tell you,” or “my feelings.” … The author goes on to tell her that she is special in some way, that his passion is an unfamiliar feeling that she has awakened in him, the important suggestion being that she has brought this upon herself. He will speak of her as an object with “shiny hair” or “sparkling eyes” — testing the waters before commenting upon the more private parts of her body.
In other words, harassment of women in science is not due to animosity towards women as scientists but rather due to their attractiveness as potential sexual partners.
If Professor Jahren is correct then shouldn’t we expect to find that female science professors are less attractive than female science graduate students who are in turn less attractive than female science undergrads?
[We also have to adjust for “Beautiful People Really Are More Intelligent” and the fact that science requires at least a moderately high IQ. It might be necessary to do this analysis on a state-by-state level. Attractive female scientists in Massachusetts, for example, might learn that having sex with a medical doctor would yield a higher after-tax cash flow under the state’s child support guidelines than working at the median salary for a science professor (see “Women in Science” for an analysis). On the other hand, a female scientist in Minnesota, Nevada, or Texas, would find it more lucrative to continue on through the Ph.D. and then work for wages. It may be the case that female scientists in states that offer unlimited child support revenue abandon the field in greater numbers than those in states where working with a Ph.D. pays better than having children.]
How about an alternative hypothesis? There are a lot of women in undergrad science because they want to go to medical school (roughly 50 percent female). Thus many of them were never on the academic science track to begin with. The observed drop-out rate from master’s to PhD occurs as women get older and more savvy about the life of a working scientist versus alternatives, some of which are almost exclusively available to females.