Why do women leave engineering? Maybe it’s their male colleagues

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I’ve got a story up on Time.com that’s proving pretty popular, so I thought I’d mention it here, too. It begins:

For years, researchers have struggled to understand why so many women leave careers in science and engineering. Theories run the gamut, from family-unfriendly work schedules to innate differences between the genders. A new paper by McGill University economist Jennifer Hunt offers another explanation: women leave such jobs when they feel disgruntled about pay and the chance of promotion. In other words, they leave for the same reasons men do.

But here’s the real kicker:

The question then becomes why women engineers feel so stifled when it comes to pay and promotion. Hunt ran a slew of statistical tests to see if she could detect any patterns. She did. Women also left fields such as financial management and economics at higher than expected rates. The commonality? Like engineering, those sectors are male-dominated.

You can read the rest of the story here. You can also read the entire paper here if you’ve got an NBER log-in or don’t mind paying $5. I’m working on finding a link that doesn’t lead to a pay wall.

There’s also a pretty interesting discussion that’s popped up over at the Freakonomics blog. A lot of engineers are ringing in with their thoughts.

I talked to my college roommate, who is an engineer, about the paper’s findings. Her experience in the field has been great, she said, and she actually works with a lot of women. I should also mention that she’s about to have her second child—go Jen! It’s a nice reminder that when we talk about these sorts of trends, there are always plenty of exceptions.