Anne Grönlund (2020) Having it all, or avoiding black holes? Career–family strategies and the choice between leaving or staying in academia among Swedish PhDs, Community, Work & Family, DOI: 10.1080/13668803.2020.1777090

Despite a persistent notion that women exit academia due to family responsibilities, research on exits is scarce. Based on 32 interviews, the paper explores how male and female PhDs recount the choice of leaving versus remaining in academia in terms of aspirations, opportunities and constraints. The main question is whether the exit/remain decision reflects gendered work-family strategies in a modern dual-earner society like Sweden. The narratives form a fourfold typology of strategic and accidental stayers, as well as strategic and accidental leavers. The analysis points to assymmetric opportunities connected to both gender roles and internal/external employment prospects. Family concerns formed a prominent reason for exit but problems of job insecurity and care involvement were highlighted by both men and women. Female but not male stayers could forsee obstacles and applied a range of strategies to minimize the impact of family on their careers. All in all, findings did not conform to prevailing notions of female exits but suggest that the academic career system present women and families with complex dilemmas even in a country with supportive policies. In future, exit processes should be furthered studied in other institutional contexts.