Women Are Being Pushed Out of Academia
Sunday, October 29th, 2023
This week’s core story is about: Women being pushed out of academia.
Heads up: Next week’s issue will look slightly different (though familiar to early Bagelers!). I’m doing some testing on my end and want to play around with the sections a bit to gauge a couple things. I’ll include a short survey so you can let me know what you think!
KNEAD TO KNOW
A new report by the International Energy Agency paints a picture of the world’s energy system in 2030 that has 10 times as many electric vehicles as today, more solar than the entire U.S. system currently produces, and renewables accounting for around 50% of the global energy mix (up from 30% today). The IEA’s highly anticipated World Energy Outlook 2023 also found fossil fuel usage is expected to peak this decade, though “stronger measures” are needed to meet the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C. The projections are based on current government policies, meaning, if countries meet their national pledges, progress would happen even faster.
New data from the U.S. Department of Commerce shows real gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 4.9% in the third quarter (July through September), a large increase from the 2.1% pace in the second quarter (April through June). The Commerce Department says the third-quarter acceleration was fueled by strong consumer spending, which jumped 4% last quarter after increasing just 0.8% in the second quarter. The third-quarter figure also beat estimates of 4.7% by economists at Dow Jones.
A new report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 45.6% of American health workers reported feeling burned out in 2022, up from 31.9% in 2018. The report found the number of health workers who reported being harassed at work, including experiencing threats, bullying, and verbal abuse by patients, more than doubled over the study period, from 6.4% in 2018 to 13.4%. The CDC says the report is the first to describe health workers’ self-reported well-being and work conditions before and after the start of the COVID pandemic.
A new study by researchers at Northwestern University found 11% of the world’s roughly 2,000 billionaires have held or sought political office, describing billionaire politicians as a “shockingly common phenomenon.” The study found that while billionaires in the U.S. have had mixed results at the ballot box, global billionaires have a “strong track record” of winning and “lean to the Right ideologically.” “The concentration of massive wealth in the hands of a tiny elite has understandably caused many observers to worry that the ‘super-rich have super-sized political influence,’” the authors wrote.
Women Are Being Pushed Out of Academia
New research investigates women’s underrepresentation among university professors and what drives them to leave academia at a higher rate across all career stages.
Regardless of whether or not you’ve attended college, it probably won’t surprise you to hear that the history of academia has been dominated by men. Like a lot of annoying and inequitable things in our society, it stems from a time when powerful and ignorant men didn’t allow women (and others) to enjoy many of life’s privileges (and basic rights), including the pursuit of a higher education.
Fast forward to present day and women’s underrepresentation among faculty across nearly all disciplines is similarly unsurprising, since modern underrepresentation is often the vestige of history’s worst things.
Take representation in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields as an example.
Women spent decades kicking down doors and proving their worth in scientific fields, and today earn around 40% of all doctoral degrees awarded in STEM disciplines in the U.S. Despite that progress and the greater representation among those earning PhDs today (a necessary step toward becoming a professor), women hold just 28% of STEM professorships.
The disparities across academic fields are obvious and well-understood. The drivers? Not so much.
New research investigates attrition among college faculty and what drives women to leave academia.
What the research says:
A new study by researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder systematically examined faculty retention across the entire U.S. university system, including all 245,270 tenure-track or tenured professors active between 2011 and 2020 at 391 PhD-granting universities and institutions. The study also included survey responses from more than 10,000 former and current faculty.
The researchers say their work is the “most comprehensive analysis of retention in academia to date.”
The study found women faculty are more likely to leave academia than men faculty across all career stages at U.S. universities, affecting not only early-career professionals, but also those who have reached the highest ranks at institutions.
During their time as assistant professors, the study found women are 6% more likely to leave than men each year; once they become full professors, the attrition rate is even higher, with women becoming 19% more likely to leave than men.
“We were surprised to see the gender gap actually grow after faculty received tenure, given how important the title is,” said lead author Katie Spoon. “This result suggests that perhaps the field has neglected thinking about tenured women and their experiences.”
The gender disparities in attrition across all career stages also implies that faculty cohorts hired at gender parity today will slowly become less diverse as the cohort ages. For example, a new cohort hired at parity today would fall to 48.2% women after 15 years, 45.4% after 25 years, and 40.6% after 35 years.
When asked about leaving academia, the researchers found women were more likely to report feeling “pushed” out of their position by various factors, particularly due to experiencing harsh workplace environments (43% of all women), including dysfunctional leadership, harassment, discrimination, and feelings of not belonging.
Men in the study were more likely to report feeling “pulled” toward an attractive opportunity as a reason for leaving, and most commonly reported reasons related to professional achievements overall (40% of all men), like moving to a new job. Men and women were about as likely to report leaving academia in pursuit of more work-life balance.
Why it matters:
Unless you live under a rock or with a constant bit of hatred in your heart, it’s obvious how important equitable levels of representation in higher education are to young people.
It’s important that young women see people like them serving as professors, leading profound and important discussions as they educate and inspire the next round of youth. It’s also not limited to women; people of color, LGBTQ folks, and those from other national origins also need to see people like themselves leading higher education.
As the saying goes, “representation matters.” It goes a long way when young people see someone like themselves in a position that invigorates and excites, and it’s important for them to see those people in academia, hopefully attracting more talented people to the field.
The researchers of the present study hope their work sparks a nationwide discussion about attrition in academia, particularly when it comes to women faculty.
“It can start with asking faculty, particularly women, what needs to be done, listening, and taking specific, concrete steps to address their concerns,” said Spoon.
Exposure to Natural Disasters Can Burn Out the Body’s Hormonal System
A new study by researchers at Duke University found women who lived through the 2004 Indonesian tsunami have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol than women in nearby communities that weren’t directly affected by the disaster, linking the stress from exposure to the tsunami to the “burnout” of the regulatory system that controls cortisol.
Cortisol levels rise in response to stress (part of the well-known “fight or flight” response), but consistently elevated levels can dysregulate the regulatory system that controls the hormone, indicating a type of hormonal “burnout” in response to repeated or continued stress.
The study found women who reported more symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in the two years after the tsunami experienced the greatest dysregulation in cortisol levels, and that people with low levels of cortisol have worse physical and psycho-social health 14 years after the disaster.
Increased Melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet May Be Unavoidable
A new study by researchers at the British Antarctic Survey found the West Antarctic Ice Sheet will continue to melt at an increasing rate over the rest of this century no matter how much the world reduces its fossil fuel usage, suggesting Antarctica’s contribution to sea level rise will accelerate over the coming decades.
The researchers used supercomputer simulations to analyze the ocean-driven melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and how much can be controlled by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, finding no difference in melting between mid-range emissions scenarios and the most ambitious targets of the 2015 Paris Agreement.
“It looks like we've lost control of [the] melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. If we wanted to preserve it in its historical state, we would have needed action on climate change decades ago,” said lead author Kaitlin Naughten. “The bright side is that by recognising this situation in advance, the world will have more time to adapt to the sea level rise that's coming. If you need to abandon or substantially re-engineer a coastal region, having 50 years lead time is going to make all the difference.”
Vaporized Space Junk Is Polluting the Stratosphere
A new study by scientists at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found the stratosphere is littered with particles from exotic metals and alloys used in satellites and rockets that get vaporized by the intense heat of reentry. The agency says the work is its “most ambitious and intensive effort to date to investigate aerosol particles in the stratosphere,” which is home to the protective ozone layer.
Using a custom-built “extraordinarily sensitive instrument” attached to the nose of a research aircraft, the team found aluminum and exotic metals embedded in sulfuric acid particles, which comprise the large majority of particles in the stratosphere. Overall, they found 20 distinct elements from spacecraft reentry in particles sampled during the project.
The scientists discovered the vaporized metals came from spacecraft by matching the ratios they observed to special alloys used in rockets and satellites, marking the first time “stratospheric pollution has been unquestionably linked to reentry of space debris.”
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38% - The percentage of U.S. adults in 2022 who said they followed the news all or most of the time, down from 51% in 2016, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center. Last year’s figure continues a downward trend of close news following among Americans in recent years, led by a particularly steep decline among Republicans (37% in 2022, down from 57% in 2016).
4.46 billion years - The updated estimate of the age of the Moon, according to a new study by researchers at the Field Museum and the University of Glasgow in Scotland. The researchers performed an “atom-by-atom analysis” of crystals brought back by Apollo astronauts in 1972 to reach the updated figure, finding the Moon may be about 40 million years older than previously believed.
22 minutes - The amount of daily physical activity that may offset the heightened risk of death from prolonged sitting, according to a new study by researchers at The Arctic University of Norway. The study found being sedentary for more than 12 hours a day was associated with a 38% heightened risk of death compared to sitting for around 8 hours a day (the average work day), though daily activity of around 20-25 minutes was associated with a lower risk of death.
51.5% - The percentage of U.S. Gen Zers (ages 10 to 24) that want more content centered on friendships and platonic relationships, according to a new report by researchers at UCLA. The Teens and Screens report also found 44.3% of adolescents think romance is overused in media and 39% want to see more aromantic or asexual characters on screen.
Long Video. Check out the insane scale of Europe’s massive new mega-tunnel connecting Denmark to Germany. (28 min)
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Neat List. Here are the 200 best inventions of 2023, according to TIME.
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Written by Ryan Wittler