Women working in university science departments report higher levels of job-related burnout than men, suggests new research.
The study points to reasons why women working in science might leave academia and offers ways for universities to better support them.
But a critic of the research’s findings said that talent retention was a management issue and that the problem does not lie with the women themselves.
People suffer burnout when they are physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted, making them more likely to leave a position. Although it is known that there is a “leaky pipeline” in science, with women leaving the profession at earlier career stages and at a faster rate than men, until now little consideration has been given to how burnout contributes to this.
Daphne Pedersen, professor of sociology, and Krista Minnottee, assistant professor of sociology, both at the University of North Dakota, surveyed 117 people working in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) departments at a research-intensive liberal arts university in the US.
In an online questionnaire, they asked about the extent to which academics felt burnt out by their job and about various aspects of their work environment.
About 30 per cent of those who responded were women. On average, the women reported higher levels of job burnout than the men. The trend persisted even when the researchers took into account the rank and tenure status of the respondents and whether they were married or had children.
Professor Pedersen told Times Higher Education that feelings of overwork and strain are more likely in STEM departments because faculty face increased pressure to seek external grants and to live up to the expectation of the “ideal worker”, who is completely devoted to work and is always available for it.
Source: Times Higher Education