How Women in Biomedical PhD Programs Manage Gender Consciousness as They Persist Toward Academic Research Careers.Acad Med. 2016 08; 91(8):1119-27.AM
Women remain underrepresented as biomedical faculty and are more likely than white and Asian men to lose interest in faculty careers in graduate school. However, some women maintain interest in academic research careers during PhD training and are the most likely candidates for faculty positions. This study explored how these women described and interpreted gender issues at early stages in their training.
Annual interviews from 2009 to 2014 with 22 female PhD students aspiring to research faculty careers were analyzed using an iterative, content analysis approach rooted in the interview data. Focusing on career intentions and experiences with gender, race, and ethnicity, authors arrived at 11 themes which describe a range of gendered experiences and strategies.
Of the 22 women, 19 (86%) acknowl edged systemic gender inequities in science and/or reported instances of bias, while 15 of them also said they had not yet experienced unequal treatment. All 22 described using at least one "gender-explicit strategy," where they based decisions on gender or in response to perceived biases. "Gender-agnostic strategies" emerged for 12 (55%) who doubted that gender will affect their career.
Findings show that women biomedical PhD students continue to face conditions that can lead to unequal treatment; gender biases continue to persist. Students displayed a range of perceptions and strategies in response to these conditions at this early training stage. Following these students over time will determine whether these or other strategies are required and sufficient to enable persistence toward academic careers.