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The rumors have been greatly exaggerated…

April 1, 2010
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Another soldier has joined the war to answer the eternal question, why do women leave science? According to Jennifer Hunt, Economics Professor at McGill University, it's because more women are leaving Engineering and the number of women who leave Science fields is actually comparable to men.
 
You can go here (TIME), or here (NYT Freakanomics) for some analysis. The paper itself is behind a pay wall however if you're like me and have a university connection you might be able to nab yourself a copy. Here's some choice points.
 
-"…the excess exits are concentrated in engineering rather than science, and in exits to other fields rather than to non-employment."
-"…the most important driver of excess female exits from engineering is dissatisfaction over pay and promotion opportunities, a factor explaining about 60% of the differential gender gap in exit rates."
-"…while many more women than men cite family issues as the reason for leaving engineering, the gender gap is as large in non-science and engineering fields."
-"The implication is that a lack of mentoring and networks, or discrimination by managers and co-workers are the more promising of the existing explanations for excess female exits, and that explanations hinging on the precise nature of engineering work should be discarded."
-"The panel shows that the exit rate from engineering is very low for men: only 9.8% of men trained as engineers are doing unrelated work. While the exit rate is also low for women, at 12.9% it is considerably higher than for men. The comparison of the gender gap in engineering with non-science and engineering fields therefore shows a statistically significant 3.2 percentage point excess exit rate of women from engineering."
-"…performing somewhat related work has a statistically significant but small wage penalty: 4.0-4.2% for holders of non-science and engineering degrees and for men trained as engineers, and 8.2% for women trained as engineers….[For] doing work unrelated to the highest degree…for workers leaving engineering, who earn 31 log points (36%) less than stayers if male and 41 log points (51%) less if female."
-"…indicating that most of the excess female exits from engineering are not attributable to children."
 
 
So a 3.2% significantly significant rate of more women than men leaving Engineering, and an 8.2% to a man's 4.2% paycut for doing something sort of related and a 51% paycut compared to a man's 36% for doing something not related. And Hunt went on to show that leaving for family or children plays little to no role in the excess number of women leaving the field.
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