Study Warns That Women Graduate Students in Chemistry Are Not Receiving Adequate Support

A new study by researchers at the University of Oregon finds that insufficient interactions with advisers and peers, as well as financial problems, are derailing career aspirations of women and minority groups pursuing graduate degrees in the nation’s highest-funded chemistry programs.

The researchers analyzed data from a survey of 1,375 chemistry graduate students in the top 100 university chemistry departments. The survey revealed that women and members of other marginalized groups had periodic, significant differences in their experiences. Women more often reported negative experiences with advisers. Women in marginalized groups were more than twice as likely than those in majority groups to report inadequate support to meet their costs of living.

As a result of the inequities, women, especially, “are more likely to drop out and not go on to chase their dream to become professors of tomorrow,” said the study’s lead author, sociologist Jean Stockard, professor emerita of the University of Oregon’s School of Planning, Public Policy and Management.

“I think this study is a wake-up call to chemistry departments around the country and especially our most highly ranked departments,” added study co-author Geraldine Richmond, a professor of chemistry at the University of Oregon. “Many graduate students are not getting the quality of support in advising and mentorship that are documented to be essential for success in the early career stages. We need to recognize that our graduate students are not just hired hands or technicians. We need to treat them like professionals. That means pay them like professionals. This is a serious national issue. We are losing talent that we cannot afford to lose.”

The study, “Equity for Women and Underrepresented Minorities in STEM: Graduate Experiences and Career Plans in Chemistry,” was published on the website of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/StudySTEM Fields


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