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Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering
SJR: 0.468 SNIP: 0.905 CiteScore™: 1.65

ISSN Print: 1072-8325
ISSN Online: 1940-431X

Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering

DOI: 10.1615/JWomenMinorScienEng.2016014000
pages 159-181

'AN INCREDIBLY STEEP HILL': HOW GENDER, RACE, AND CLASS SHAPE PERSPECTIVES ON ACADEMIC CAREERS AMONG BEGINNING BIOMEDICAL PHD STUDENTS

Christine V. Wood
Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, IL
Patricia B. Campbell
Cambell-Kibler Associates, Inc., Groton, MA
Richard McGee
Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, IL

ABSTRACT

This paper analyzes perspectives on academic careers among 60 beginning PhD students in the biomedical sciences. It presents seven perspectives on academic careers articulated by the students in the sample and explains the way that race/ethnicity, gender, and students' family education backgrounds are tied to those perspectives. The findings show that traditionally underrepresented students find the academic career path less navigable than students from well-represented groups. Among underrepresented students, even those from higher family education backgrounds, experiences related to race/ethnicity and gender often inform perceptions of the academic career even before they start their graduate research training. As the composition of the graduate population changes to include more women and underrepresented racial and ethnic minority men, it is important to note that not all graduate students enter with the same perspectives and views of the academic career and that there are meaningful differences in perspectives across demographic lines. Graduate programs can play a critical role in providing information and support for graduate students as they navigate their career choices, particularly at the earliest stages of training. By becoming sensitive to students' perspectives on career options, and understanding how differences in perspectives arise, mentors and others can align advising strategies with the experiences and views of students.


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