Lately I have been losing some of my colleagues; specifically: senior female colleagues who either leave academic entirely or who dive into administrative positions, never to be seen again in a research setting or even a science conference.
Some administrators maintain some level of research activity or graduate advising. Some of my disappearing colleagues have intended to do this, but eventually they stopped any involvement in research and devoted themselves full-time to administrative positions of various sorts.
It is a good thing if university administration involves a diverse group of people who work to improve the key aspects of the university: teaching and research. I think there are far too many administrators at my university, but I know that universities do need to have some. When I think about it at the individual level, I am glad that these women -- all of them excellent researchers and teachers -- are in positions of power.
Even so, there weren't many senior FSPs active in research in my field at the time I started my career, and now there are far fewer. None of these women were particularly old when I started my career, so the losses have not primarily been from retirements.
I thought that being a mid-career FSP would involve having older and younger FSP colleagues, with more of the latter than the former, but certainly some of each. Lately, however, I have been the oldest or only FSP in some academic settings, and the youngest in others (because there are still so few early-career FSPs in my field). I didn't expect either of those situations to arise very often at this stage of my career. Shouldn't being middle-aged and mid-career mean having younger and older colleagues?
I am certainly not criticizing any of the senior women who decide to leave research and teaching and pursue a career path in administration, and I am not criticizing the women who quit academia entirely. Each individual needs to decide what is best for her life and career. Nevertheless, I am always saddened when another one disappears from the realm of research. Some days, it's lonely in the middle.
6 months ago