Leaky Pipeline: A study on horizontal and vertical segregation at the TU Wien.

Chart: the proportion of women decreases in the categories from students to professors (from 25% to below 10%), while the proportion of men increases (from 75% to above 90%).

Leaky pipeline of the TU Vienna 2008

At TU Wien, both horizontal and vertical forms of gender segregation have been visible for years. Especially in traditional technical subjects such as electrical engineering or mechanical engineering, the rate of female students is very low (only 8.4% of all electrical engineering students are female); at higher career levels, no women are to be found at all.  On the other hand, in the field of architecture, for example, 50% of the beginners are women, but in the course of the career this percentage also decreases and currently stops at 17% of female scientists within the professors. This phenomenon of decreasing percentages of women over the course of a career is referred to as the "leaky pipeline."

As in other organizations, measures such as increased interlinking with schools to facilitate the entry of girls into technical studies or targeted mentoring programs for women to deal with the lack of role models have not yet brought the desired success. The present study thus takes another concrete look at the causes of the increased drop-out at TU Wien. In a triangulation study, overt and covert barriers for women are analyzed in order to better understand and explain the phenomenon of gender segregation: (1) Using logistic regression analysis, enrollment and graduation data of students at TU Vienna from 1998 to 2010 were evaluated. (2) By analyzing personnel selection processes and an experiment set up in this context, specific hurdles for female applicants were filtered out. (3) Furthermore, bullying rates were measured by means of standardized questionnaires and the level of aggression towards female employees was tested. (4) On the basis of narrative-biographical interviews, women who are currently employed at the TU Vienna and those who have left their studies or scientific career were asked about their personal experiences.

The results show that female students have an approximately 30% higher dropout rate than their male counterparts across the total student population, with significant differences across fields of study. When women and men apply for an advertised academic position at TU, experiments reveal that (potential) decision makers judge men and women according to gender stereotypes. Moreover, women's CVs are judged significantly worse when their gender is evident from the application. For men, the opposite effect occurs. Measures such as referring to the Equal Treatment Act in the application process do not prove to be effective. Quantitative analyses on aggression, culture and climate in the workplace hardly show any gender-specific differences, but the narratives of female scientists do provide information on how women in minority status and the associated coping strategies are affected by discrimination.

Overall, the study picks up on the many facets of gender discrimination at TU Vienna and shows how deeply the organization is affected by this problem. The otherness of women, their token status, and the stereotypical (pre)judgments and consequences associated with it become evident in different ways in the various studies. The results point to an urgent need for fundamental cultural change that involves integrating measures in the sense of genuine diversity management instead of assimilation mechanisms.

Project reports

Here you can find the Executive Summary of the research project as well as reports from the subprojects "Geschlecht zählt?!" and "Der Weg und das Ziel". The reports from the other sub-studies are still in progress. For more detailed information please contact the project manager Prof. Sabine Köszegi., opens in new window

Executive Summary (PDF), opens a file in a new window

Project partners:

  • Mag. Elisabeth Günther Sub-study: „Geschlecht zählt?! Quantifizierung des Gender-Effekts“, Staff member at the Coordination Office for Women's Advancement and Gender Studies and PhD student at TU Wien
  • Dr. Marita Haas Sub-study: „Der Weg und das Ziel - Biographische Analyse von TU Dropouts & Karrieren im unterschiedlichen Laufbahnstufen“, independent scientist
  • MMag. Christina Keinert Sub-study: „Der Supermitarbeiter - Implizite und Explizite Personalauswahlkriterien“, Staff member in the field of work science and organization at the Institute of Management Science at the TU Wien
  • Univ.Prof. Dr. Sabine Köszegi  Project Manager, Scientific Project Management, Head of the Department of Work Science and Organization at the Institute of Management Science, TU Wien
  • Dipl.Ing. Sabine Neff Cooperation partner, representative of the rectorate
  • Dr. Brigitte Ratzer Cooperation partner, Head of the Coordination Office for the Advancement of Women and Gender Studies
  • Mag. Eva Zedlacher Sub-study: „Fremde Galaxien - Kultur und Klima-Analyse“, Staff member in the field of work science and organization at the Institute of Management Science at the TU Wien