According to a recent study in the USA, conducted by the Center for Work-Life Policy and sponsored by a host of technology companies, 52 percent of women in private-sector science and technology jobs drop out without returning, a vast majority between the ages of 35 to 44.
In the 18-month study, researchers conducted 28 focus groups in 13 major cities around the world, surveying women in science, engineering and technology who had been working at their company for at least six months.
“The dropping out was a surprise to us. We knew anecdotally that women were leaving these careers. We didn’t expect to see the number 52 percent,” said Laura Sherbin, a director at the Center for Work-Life Policy. “We [also] found that there was a specific age range in their mid- to late-30s where the attrition seemed to spike.”
Even more confounding, the dropout is occurring even as gender differences in science study are starting to level out. According to the National Science Foundation, 211,000 women out of 486,000 students are pursuing graduate degrees in science, technology, engineering and math. In the biological sciences, women dominate at the graduate level, making up 56 percent of the student population.
The reasons for attrition in the private sector are vast and complex, according to Sherbin, and can’t be attributed solely to women leaving to raise families.