Diversophiles beware: With career choice factors taken into account, women and “under-represented” minorities with Ph.D.’s are up to 55 percent less likely to show a “high interest” in pursuing university faculty careers in research.
The study published in the science journal PLOS ONE, “Biomedical Science Ph.D. Career Interest Patterns by Race/Ethnicity and Gender,” suggests that it takes more than just getting these groups interested in the field in the first place — the interest (or, one might say, the “overriding ambiance of diversity”) has to be sustained.
At the point of Ph.D. completion, after controlling for factors such as research productivity, mentoring, confidence, and so forth (all factors that could affect career choices) women and members of under-represented minority groups are 36 to 55 percent less likely than white and Asian men to report high interest in faculty careers at research-intensive universities. Furthermore, under-represented minority women are nearly twice as likely as all other groups to report high interest in careers outside of research.
MTC’s John Rosenberg ponders:
… it is worth noting that these findings raise serious questions about one of the most ubiquitous justifications for preferential treatment of women and minorities — that we now live in a “global world” (where did we formerly live?) and that in order to succeed in global competition we must attract more women, blacks, and Hispanics to the STEM fields. Set aside for a moment whether that claim is actually true. Even if to some degree it is, who is more likely to make a bigger contribution to our global STEM competitive efforts, woman or minority applicants or Asian or white men who are “36 to 55 percent” more likely to stay in the field?
In addition, Rosenberg notes the seeming conceit from which the whole diversity question is based: “The article seems to assume that competing for an academic position is most desirable outcome for a well-qualified female and/or minority biomedical scientist.”
Which, of course, could be said about virtually any field. We often hear, for example, about the need for more “under-represented” minorities in lower education; however, as the quote above points out, often teaching isn’t the most “desirable outcome” for well-educated/qualified target candidates.