Staying Competitive: Patching America's Leaky Pipeline in the Sciences

Premier science largely depends on the quality of the pool of future scientists. For this reason the United States has made a major effort over the past 30 years to attract more outstanding U.S. students, particularly women, into research science. Women have risen to the challenge with significant increases in all physical sciences and engineering, and they have made a huge advance in the life sciences, where they now receive more than 50 percent of all Ph.D.s. Women now represent a large part of the talent pool for research science, but many data sources indicate that they are more likely than men to “leak” out of the pipeline in the sciences before obtaining tenure at a college or university. The loss of these women, together with serious increases in European and Asian nations’ capacity for research, means the long-term dependability of a highly trained U.S. workforce and global preeminence in the sciences may be in question. 

This report addresses the effect of family formation on both when and why women and men drop or opt out of the academic science career path and on those who remain on the path. It offers an extensive examination of the experiences of researchers as well as the role that institutions of higher education and federal granting agencies play in regard to the leaky pipeline in the sciences.


Written by Marc Goulden, Mary Ann Mason and Karie Frasch, The University of California, Berkeley

Published by the Center for American Progress and the Berkeley Center on Health, Economic & Family Security