Why Do Women Leave Science and Engineering?
I use the 1993 and 2003 National Surveys of College Graduates to examine the higher exit rate of women compared to men from science and engineering relative to other fields. I find that the higher relative exit rate is driven by engineering rather than science, and show that 60% of the gap can be explained by the relatively greater exit rate from engineering of women dissatisfied with pay and promotion opportunities. Contrary to the existing literature, I find that family-related constraints and dissatisfaction with working conditions are only secondary factors. My results differ due to my use of non-science and engineering fields as a comparison group. The relative exit rate by gender from engineering does not differ from that of other fields once women's relatively high exit rates from male fields generally is taken into account.
I thank Leah Brooks, Daniel Parent and participants in seminars at McGill, the NBER and UBC for comments. I am grateful to David Munroe and Marjolaine Gauthier-Loiselle for research assistance and to the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada for financial support. This paper was written while I was a visiting professor at the University of British Columbia. I am also affiliated with the CEPR (London), IZA (Bonn), and DIW (Berlin). The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.