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Where Are They Now? Re-Examining the Migration of I-O Psychologists to Business Schools

Patrick J. Lee, Nicolette A. Rainone*, Juliet R. Aiken, Marcus W. Dickson, Charles A. Scherbaum, Tiancheng Chen, and Paul J. Hanges

Patrick J. Lee,  Nicolette A. Rainone, and Charles A. Scherbaum are at Baruch College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York

Juliet R. Aiken and Paul J. Hanges are at  University of Maryland, College Park

Marcus W. Dickson is at Wayne State University

Tiancheng Chen is at George Mason University

Author Note: * Patrick J. Lee and Nicolette A. Rainone contributed equally to this article.


Several concerns have been raised by members of our field regarding the current state of I-O psychology. One is that I-O psychologists (I-Os) are migrating from psychology departments to business schools (e.g., Aguinis, Bradley & Brodersen, 2014; Aguinis et al., 2017). Another is that women and minorities remain underrepresented in I-O (e.g., Gardner, Ryan, & Snoeyink, 2018; Leung & Rainone, 2018).

Although these issues have separately garnered significant attention, they have yet to be integrated. We argue that the two concerns are indeed interconnected and suggest that we begin thinking about them in tandem. Our hope in doing so is to advance the conversation and build towards a broader understanding of a complex, multifaceted issue that has major implications for our field. Additionally, by examining both gender and racial diversity, we provide information about the status of minority women I-Os—a group that often goes unnoticed.

Building upon existing data on the migration of I-Os out of psychology departments, we aim to accomplish our objective by (a) identifying trends in the data that have not been previously identified and (b) highlighting the unintended consequences that this migration poses for gender and racial diversification within our field.


Trends in the Migration Data That Have Not Been Previously Identified

Sample 1: Authors of the most cited articles in I-O textbooks. Aguinis et al. (2017) had already collected a wealth of data on frequently cited authors and articles in our field, and we thought it would be illustrative to investigate migration trends within such a sample of well-cited authors. One particular contribution of Aguinis et al. was to identify the most widely cited articles and book chapters in six popular I-O psychology textbooks. This yielded 59 publications cited in at least four textbooks each, with 152 unique authors of the publications.1 The authors included a mix of academics, graduate students, and practitioners, and as such represented a diversity of IOP career paths. We supplemented the existing data by gathering two pieces of information per author: (a) departmental affiliation at the time of publication, and (b) current or most recent affiliation.2 Three types of affiliations were coded in our analysis: psychology (e.g., I-O) departments, business/management departments (e.g., OB, HRM), and other (e.g., industry, consulting, government, other academic).

With respect to author affiliations at the time of publication of the most cited articles, we found that there was approximately an even split between psychology (60 authors; 40.8%) and business (61 authors; 41.5%) departments. Also, 17.7% (26) of the authors held affiliations external to psychology and business/management. For the current or most recent author affiliations, in comparison, 43.5% (64) of the authors are affiliated with a business school, whereas 27.2% (40) are affiliated with a psychology department and 29.3% (43) are externally affiliated. This supports the Aguinis et al. (2017) suggestion that much impactful research has been and is conducted in business schools. However, the same can be said for psychology departments. If anything, the data indicate that many of the authors made their focal research contributions while in psychology departments and then subsequently moved to other departments.

The decrease over time in psychology affiliations suggests that at the very least, there is indeed a migration of I-Os out of psychology departments. However, when we dug deeper into the data and examined the actual movement of individual I-Os, we found that the increasing gap between business and psychology faculty may not be directly attributable to I-Os moving into business schools. Of the 60 psychology-affiliated authors at the time of publication, only 11.7% (7) later shifted to a business/management department. However, more of these authors, 28.3% (17), moved into non-psychology, non-business fields; that is, the vast majority of these authors became industry and consulting practitioners. (See Figure 1 for the patterns of movement among psychology, business, and other affiliations.) Hence, the biggest shift of I-Os is not to business/management departments, but out of academia and into practice—a trend perhaps assumed but not previously documented.3 This movement of widely cited I-Os into practice may be creating a research void that would naturally be filled by business school academics. What we are observing today may be a product of this movement. In other words, while Aguinis et al. (2017) have identified a trend, additional analysis has highlighted an arguably more important trend that explains the movements of I-Os that we see now.


As mentioned above, some of the widely cited authors were graduate students at the time of publication. They may have engaged in research while in school but already knew that they would pursue a different track in the future. To account for any potential effects of status (student versus non-student), we conducted a supplemental analysis to identify the authors who worked on a high-impact publication while in a PhD program. We determined that 12.5% (19) of the authors were graduate students at the time of publication but that only 3.9% (6) were students who would go on to change departmental affiliations post-degree. Such a low frequency suggests that the migration observed in this sample was not due entirely to the inclusion of graduate students.

Sample 2: The most cited authors in I-O textbooks. One possible limitation of evaluating Sample 1 is that while the number of authors per publication may vary and co-authors may differ in their overall contributions to the I-O/OB field, every author received equal weight in the analysis. Also, we saw that a popular career trajectory is for I-Os to leave academia and move into practice, but what about successful career academics? We therefore examined the 178 most cited authors overall among the six popular I-O psychology textbooks, representing the top 2% of all cited authors.4 Aguinis et al. (2017) listed every author along with their current or most recent departmental affiliation, but not the affiliation when the author published his/her most high-impact work. Hence, we found the most impactful articles for each of the 178 authors by using Web of Science’s citation index and identified the author’s affiliation at the time of each article’s publication.

What we found was striking: 48.3% (86) of the authors were affiliated with a psychology department, 48.3% (86) were affiliated with a business/management department, and 3.4% (6) were affiliated with other departments or non-academic institutions (which we will refer to as “Other”) at the time of publication of their most influential article. This equal psychology–business split is dramatically different from the distribution of current affiliations that Aguinis et al. (2017) observed: 58% with business/management and 34% with psychology. Taken together, the results also depict a similar trend as seen in Sample 1. Namely, both psychology and business programs have significantly contributed to the volume of impactful research and researchers in our field, and many I-Os have conducted meaningful research while in psychology departments and later moved to other departments or career paths. This suggests that those who shift to business schools may often do so after they have already established a name for themselves. Therefore, while Aguinis et al. predict that business schools will have greater influence on the training of I-Os than will psychology departments in the future, our data points to I-O programs maintaining a substantial role—especially with respect to early career development.

In sum, we agree that there is a drain of I-Os from psychology departments, but it is mainly I-Os moving to practice with a smaller percentage moving to business departments. Of those who have migrated directly from I-O to business/management programs, many have done so as a mid- or late-career shift—that is, after already having achieved success and recognition as an IOP. Our data do not address why they have left psychology, but we know there are a variety of reasons, such as economic, personal (e.g., location), prestige related, and new career experience related. We have all spoken with colleagues who have moved from psychology departments to business schools, and who have essentially said, “I’ll be doing exactly the same thing as I was doing before—I’ll just be making more money/living closer to family/more recognized for the work I do, etc.” However, in light of recent points raised about gender and racial diversity within our field (Gardner et al., 2018; Leung & Rainone, 2018), we question whether this migration pattern looks the same for I-Os of all backgrounds. 

Unintended Consequences That Migration Poses for Gender and Racial Diversification Within Our Field

As Gardner et al. (2018) recently pointed out, there are a number of areas in our field (e.g., publications in top journals) where women remain underrepresented. Similarly, Aguinis et al. (2017) noted that only 17% of the most cited authors in I-O textbooks were female. Since recent findings suggest that academics in business/management departments have a wider gender pay gap when compared to other typical career paths of I-Os (e.g., academics in psychology departments, consulting, nonprofit, government; Richard et al., 2018), it is particularly important to consider how gender diversity interacts with the migration issue. Additionally, as others have pointed out (e.g., Avery & Hysong, 2007; Leung & Rainone, 2018), racial and ethnic minorities—especially women of color —are underrepresented in I-O psychology. As such, we examined the unintended consequences of this migration issue for both gender and racial diversity in our field using an intersectional approach.

We focused on the influential (i.e., most cited) authors from Sample 2 because a sample of predominantly career academics was determined to be most appropriate for highlighting how gender and race interact with the psychology-to-business migration issue. We coded each author’s gender and race using public photos and bios on program websites.5  Consistent with the findings of Aguinis et al. (2017), 16.29% (29) of the 178 authors in Sample 2 were coded as female and 83.71% (149) as male. Additionally, 5.11% (9) of the authors for which we were able to code race were identified as minority men.6 It is important to note that no authors in this sample were identified as women of color.

We crossed the data we already had on author affiliations with the demographic characteristics of the authors. Results are summarized in Figure 2). Out of the 29 female authors, 55.17% (16) were affiliated with psychology departments at the time of publication of their most influential article, while 37.93% (11) were affiliated with business/management departments. 6.90% (2) of female authors had an affiliation at publication that was coded as Other. By comparison, 48.28% (14) of these authors were most recently affiliated with psychology, 37.93% (11) most recently with business/management, and 13.79% (4) most recently with Other. In terms of movement, two female authors migrated from psychology departments to business schools (6.90%), while one migrated from business to psychology (3.45%) and one migrated from psychology to Other (3.45%). 

Out of the 149 male authors, 46.98% (70) were affiliated with psychology departments at the time of publication, while 50.34% (75) were affiliated with business/management departments. 2.68% (4) of male authors had an affiliation at publication that was coded as Other. By comparison, 34.90% (52) of these authors were most recently affiliated with psychology, 58.39% (87) most recently with business/management, and 6.71% (10) most recently with Other. In terms of movement, 17 male authors (11.41%) migrated from psychology departments to business schools, while 4 (2.68%) migrated from business to psychology and 5 (3.36%) migrated from psychology to Other. 

Out of the 9 minority male authors in Sample 2, 33.33% (3) were affiliated with psychology departments at the time of publication, while 66.67% (6) were affiliated with business/management departments. By comparison, 44.44% (4) of these authors were most recently affiliated with psychology, and the other 55.56% (5) with business/management. As the numbers suggest, none of the minority male authors migrated from psychology departments to business schools, although one author in this group migrated from business to psychology (11.11%). Since there were no minority women on the list, migration data could not be examined for this demographic.

These results indicate that more male than female highly cited I-Os have migrated to business schools. Statistical significance testing of Sample 2 finds that men are marginally more likely than women to ultimately attain membership in business/management programs, b = .76, Wald = 2.96, p = .09, odds ratio = 2.13. Combining the greater odds with greater overall male representation, however, in terms of sheer numbers this can create a large imbalance favoring      men within such programs. In addition, the inclusion of race in our analyses reveals that it is particularly white men in this group who have migrated to business schools. The migration rate appears lower for white women and minority men, while there were no minority women even represented on the list of most cited authors. This is a notable (and concerning) finding that further highlights the importance of taking an intersectional approach to gender and race when examining diversity within our field.

In sum, our findings suggest that there is a lack of gender and racial diversity not only among highly cited I-Os, but especially among those I-Os who have migrated to business schools. Given the growing importance of faculty in business/management programs to the publication of research in top journals such as JAP and PP (Aguinis et al., 2014), limited gender/racial diversification within such programs may have ripple effects across our entire field. Here, it is worth nothing that the pipeline of talent in business schools also has fewer women than the pipeline in I-O psychology departments. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (2017), women earned 70% of bachelor’s degrees, 68% of master’s degrees, and 62% of PhDs in I-O psychology in 2016. At the same time, women earned 47% of bachelor’s degrees, 44% of master’s degrees, and 46% of PhDs in business, management, marketing, and related support services. With [LP3] highly cited I-Os being predominantly white males, productive I-Os moving to business schools to mentor and train fewer female and/or minority students, and with the concern of I-O diminishing in reputation within psychology departments, the urgent demographic imbalance may only increase (Aguinis et al., 2017; Gardner et al., 2018). Further, and more importantly, impactful work psychology research may increasingly centralize among a core group of (relatively) demographically homogeneous researchers.


Our findings suggest that I-Os are indeed migrating out of psychology—however, it seems that more I-Os are moving into careers in practice than into business/management. Those who have moved to business/management have tended to do so in the later stages of their careers, and our results suggest that this group is largely made up of white men. It should be noted that our analyses do not shed any light on why prominent I-Os are migrating out of psychology or why white men more often attain coveted positions in business schools than do women and/or minorities. Furthermore, our data speak to the status of current star performers in our field but may not reflect future changes in trends with respect to tomorrow’s stars. Nevertheless, the migration issue does not appear to be going away anytime soon, so it is important to start a SIOP-level discussion in order to identify possible strategies for dealing with this.

Although individual I-Os can choose to move away from psychology, there are things that I-O as a field and SIOP can do to support the work that is coming out of psychology departments. The first step is simply to generate awareness for what might be lost with this possible shift. In some ways, this is already taking place through avenues such as the Organizational Frontiers series (which has made cutting-edge I-O theory and research accessible to a wider audience). SIOP can also continue to pursue a more deliberate and strategic integration with the American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science. Increased efforts to introduce I-Os to other fields of psychology—such as joint symposia, workshops, and seminars—will encourage the kinds of conversations that lead to valuable interdisciplinary research. Furthermore, SIOP may choose to invest in grants to support I-O research coming out of psychology departments. This suggestion is similar to one enacted within the medical community, where doctors are financially encouraged to practice in small communities after medical school.

Finally, both business schools and psychology departments should proactively address the shift in gender and racial dynamics that may otherwise result from the migration of I-Os out of psychology. In order to do this, we must get at the heart of the matter. It is not so much that women and minorities are discouraged from entering our field but that they are underrepresented in the advanced ranks—à la the “leaky pipeline” (e.g., Gardner et al., 2018; Huffman, Howes, & Olson, 2017). To the extent that business school positions are a mid-to-late career “prize” for many I-Os and represent advanced status, here is where the leaky pipeline can certainly manifest. We therefore echo the suggestions already made by other scholars with regards to fixing the leaks and evening the playing field. For instance, Aguinis, Ji, and Joo (2018) recommend that departments implement fairer and more transparent hiring/promotion policies, mentoring programs to facilitate the career advancement of women, and cluster hiring if appropriate (i.e., hiring multiple scholars based on common research interests) to foster greater diversity. Clearly these are not the only actions that can (and should) be taken but are at least a step towards making sure different backgrounds and perspectives are well represented. With the current state of national affairs being one where women of color and other minority groups are too often ignored and denigrated, I-O and business/management need to set a good example by working together for greater inclusivity in our field.



1 See Table 3 of the Aguinis et al. (2017) article.

2 We were unable to identify the current affiliation for 5 authors, so we excluded them from our analysis.

3 Interestingly, 5% (3) of the authors moved from business/management to psychology departments.

4 See Table 4 of the Aguinis et al. (2017) article.

5 Coding pictures to determine race has been used previously to examine the demographic composition of our field (e.g., Leung & Rainone, 2018). However, we do recognize that there is room for ambiguity, and this may lead certain numbers to be imprecise.

6 We were not able to obtain pictures for two of the authors in Sample 2.




Aguinis, H., Bradley, K. J., & Brodersen, A. (2014). Industrial-organizational psychologists in business schools: Brain drain or eye opener? Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 7(3), 284–303.

Aguinis, H., Ji, Y. H., & Joo, H. (2018). Gender productivity gap among star performers in STEM and other scientific fields. Journal of Applied Psychology, 103(12), 1283–1306.

Aguinis, H., Ramani, R. S., Campbell, P. K., Bernal-Turnes, P., Drewry, J. M., & Edgerton, B. T. (2017). Most frequently cited sources, articles, and authors in industrial-organizational psychology textbooks: Implications for the science–practice divide, scholarly impact, and the future of the field. Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 10(4), 507–557.

Avery, D. R., & Hysong, S. J. (2007). A look in the mirror: Examining the ethnic/racial composition of our society. The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, 45(1), 65–70.

Gardner, D. M., Ryan, A. M., & Snoeyink, M. (2018). How are we doing? An examination of gender representation in industrial and organizational (I-O) psychology. Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 11(3), 369–388.

Huffman, A., Howes, S., & Olson, K. (2017). “This is our house!” Why are I-O psychologists losing at the gender disparity game? Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 10(4), 584–588. doi:10.1017/iop.2017.59

Leung, D. W., & Rainone, N. (2018). Where are the women of color in I-O psychology? Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 11(3), 433–439.

National Center for Education Statistics (2017). Digest of education statistics, 2016. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/2016menu_tables.asp

Richard, E. M., Wright, N., Thomas, S., Wiggins, A., DuVernet, A., Parker, B., & Davison, K. (2018, January). Revisiting the 2016 SIOP Income & Employment Survey: Gender pay gap. The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, 55(3). Retrieved from https://www.siop.org/Research-Publications/Items-of-Interest/ArtMID/19366/ArticleID/1430/Revisiting-the-2016-SIOP-Income-Employment-Survey-Gender-Pay-Gap

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