Women in Academia: Why and where does the pipeline leak, and how can we fix it?

Lena Greska*

Edited by Dylan McCormick and Jennifer A. Cascino

Review | Aug. 31 2023

*Email: lena.greska@econ.lmu.de

DOI: 10.38105/spr.xmvdiojee1


  • Across all academic disciplines, women hold a minority of professorships, even in those disciplines where the majority of college students is female. The percentage female at the professorship level is lower than the percentage female at the Ph.D. and college graduate levels in all disciplines.
  • Many factors might contribute to women dropping out of academic careers more frequently: A lack of role models, different challenges due to parenthood, limited funding and mentorship opportunities, or implicit bias in credit giving and co-authorship.
  • Universities seeking to address the leaky pipeline can choose from a plethora of strategies with varying benefits and risks.
  • The leaky pipeline in academia is not exclusive to women; other historically underrepresented groups can face distinct challenges that may require different policies in order to be addressed.

Article Summary

Women advance along the academic career ladder at lower rates than men. This phenomenon, dubbed the “leaky pipeline,” is pervasive across all academic disciplines and leads to lower levels of female representation in academic leadership positions despite gender parity at the college level. Higher drop-out rates by women from academic careers can be explained by various supply-side factors – women choosing to leave academia due to a lack of role models or different family responsibilities – and demand-side factors – expecting more volunteer and committee work from female researchers, giving less credit to women’s contributions to scientific teamwork, citing women’s work less often, giving women less access to mentorship and funding opportunities, and perceiving women as less competent and brilliant overall. Policies that seek to remedy one of these factors might have negative side effects when the broader societal and institutional context is disregarded.

Open Access


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Lena Greska

Department of Economics, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Munich, Germany