PhD career interests patterns #DiversityJC recap

And here we go with the last #DiversityJC of the year. I’m so happy that we are keeping it up and that our journal club is getting bigger and stronger! This week our discussion was about how the career interests of biomedical science PhDs patterns change according to race/ethnicity and gender. You can see the full article here.  Also, you can read the complete storify kindly made by @MinorityPostdoc.

@labroides started venting about how the article casts leaving academia as problematic. (What IMO is a very good issue and I’m planning to write a blogpost about this soon). “But putting that to the side, the real question is why do we see this differential filtering?” @aiquintero mentioned it isn’t because URM&W aren’t successful, motivated, well-mentored. @IHStreet suggested that in tough economic times, people stick to status quo/less openness. Although the decline in $ for research is general, this may be harder among women and even harder for URMW.

However, @biochembelle mentioned that the article shows women exhibit lower interest in research faculty path even at start of PhD. So why this happens? Some sort of impostor syndrome?@aiquintero stated that # of publications, mentorship, etc was controlled for (in the article). If professional success ~ fit, then something else is missing! @CEK_1of9 replied that it might be the classic problem of no role models that “look like me”, which starts in graduate school. @IHStreet added that there are more visible women in STEM than ever. But may still be early days yet to really drive change. But how can women find a niche if they don’t apply? (Studies show bid drop in number that apply for TT positions).

Along this line @drugmonkeyblog continued saying that Recruitment and retention can be salary, research support, techs, postdocs and even jr faculty lines. Yet you should hear the mewling and whining should anyone suggest paying a huge bonus over expected to recruit a PoC. So *of course* Universities continue to fail to *look* diverse and therefore create impression it is impossible as a career.

@SFBakshi wondered if conference participation/networking in grad school plays a role in choice to pursue academia. The article states that perceived sense of “belonging” – either intellectually or socially – was not associated with interests. Although authors note as study limitations that respondents might try to give “socially acceptable” answers. But this goes together with the line of thought that is not straight impostor syndrome.

@biochembelle replied that this study provides some measures. It doesn’t provide “why” (part of future work). So, how do you encourage the interested without dismissing those who aren’t? There are some programs trying to address this, eg this one from Northwestern

@aiquintero suggested that academia is repellant because perceived as hostile to family/work-life balance. This was questioned by @DoctorZen: More than professions like medicine, law? Not known as relaxed environment. Not really, but those professions tend to pay better & have diversity of practices. So the problem is in academia, or professions more generally? Probably both!

I believe I will end up with this as food for thoughts for next #DiversityJC. We will resume it next year, January 9th, 11EST. Please let me know if you want to be included in the email list or if there’s a suggestion to change the day/time of our journal club next year. Happy holidays and see you in 2015!

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3rd #DiversityJC recap, guest post by @jkgoya

Our third #DiversityJC article was this letter presenting and analyzing the changes in women and minority involvement in the Ecological Society of America, at both the membership and leadership levels. As a letter from members of the Society, to the Society, critiquing the Society, it represents an important type of critical feedback, and it gives us a chance to see the Society’s response to the letter (as well as the community response).

The letter suggested that the absence of women and underrepresented minorities in the Society leadership could be attributed to either a time lag as we wait for the recent changes in membership proportions to propagate to leadership, or that selection committees preferentially exclude women and underrepresented minorities from consideration, whether intentionally or otherwise.

I think we agreed here, that just giving it time would not lead to balancing out the proportions.

Another point that was discussed was that it’s often potentially damaging to one’s career to speak out about these kinds of issues (diversity, harassment, injustice generally). I’ll leave off embedding those tweets as it seems wrong to publicly blog an embedded tweet in which someone expresses concern about speaking out.

We also discussed what happens outside of academia. Is it better or worse? What role does academia play in the larger culture?

 

Finally, many links were shared to try to answer some of these questions:

The importance of open access to research for supporting diversity:

http://blogs.biomedcentral.com/bmcseriesblog/2012/12/06/guest-blog-why-i-publish-open-access/

An example of the scale of hostility that can exist outside academia:

http://www.nj.com/business/index.ssf/2013/05/post_269.html

Reports from various STEM-related organizations on career trajectories:

http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/wmpd/2013/start.cfm?CFID=16466301&CFTOKEN=55531281&jsessionid=f030f7015d517b2f872e303224a2f61e45f3

http://www.asbmb.org/asbmbtoday/asbmbtoday_article.aspx?id=15855&page_id=2

http://www.biochemistry.org/Portals/0/SciencePolicy/Docs/Chemistry%20Report%20For%20Web.pdf

http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/2012/may/24/why-women-leave-academia

http://diversegreen.org/report/