A tough calculation

May 4, 2012

Study: Female students wary of the engineering workplace.

Peter Dizikes, MIT News Office


“women feel less comfortable in engineering than men, and lack the ‘professional role confidence’ that male engineers seem to acquire easily.”

Science PhD Career Preferences: Levels, Changes, and Advisor Encouragement

Henry Sauermann and Michael Roach, PLoS ONE


“We also show that the attractiveness of academic careers decreases significantly over the course of the PhD program, despite the fact that advisors strongly encourage academic careers over non-academic careers. Our data provide an empirical basis for common concerns regarding labor market imbalances.”


The same demographic trends that foretell a significant increase in the number of American university presidents likely to retire over the next few years will also lead to more retirements in the sciences.  That this takes place at the same time as the importance of scientific research increases may affect the capacity of universities and colleges to produce the discoveries and insights that fuel a knowledge-based economy. 

What’s more the results reported in “A tough calculation,” reveal that the hoped-for increase in women pursuing engineering (another critical field) may not come about as it has done in fields such as law and medicine. 

The findings of these studies suggest that the globalization of recruitment of talent in the sciences and engineering will likely accelerate since the capacity of many countries – the US included – to produce the numbers of graduates in those fields is not encouraging.

As a search firm, Harris Search Associates, an IIC Partners member firm enjoys the advantage of a global chain of partner offices that makes it possible to identify prospects for recruitment beyond national borders.

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