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One Big Reason Why Women Drop Out of Doctoral STEM Programs

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Women in a graduate-level computer science class.

A new study has found that the number of women who enter a doctoral program at the same time is a significant predictor of the likelihood of how many will graduate within six years.


Ohio State University researchers Valerie Bostwick and Bruce Weinberg have found that the fewer women who enter a doctoral program at the same time, the less likely any one of them will graduate within six years.

When only one woman is in a new class, she is 12 percentage points less likely to graduate within six years than her male classmates, Bostwick and Weinberg found. For each additional 10% of women in a new class, the on-time graduation rate for women increases by more than 2 percentage points.

The work indicates that the "female-friendliness" of doctoral programs may significantly impact the gender gap in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

The researchers used a new data set, and linked transcript records from all public universities in Ohio to data from the UMETRICS project, which provides information on students supported by federal research grants.

The researchers looked at research funding and grades, but did not find differences significant enough to explain why women are not completing their STEM degrees. This suggests the problem is the academic climate for women, the researchers say.

From Ohio State News
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