Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Gender & Race Differences in NonAcademic Careers for STEM Ph.D.s


Nonacademic career trajectories are an important and often overlooked piece of the conversation about recruitment and retention of women and minorities in STEM. 

A new analysis by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) shows 61% of STEM Ph.D.s have careers outside of academia. This should come as no real surprise. What is of interest here is that there are statistically significant differences by race and gender. For example, Black, Hispanic, and White women with STEM Ph.D.s who went on to nonacademic careers are more likely to leave STEM compared with other groups in nonacademic careers. About 28% of these women work in non-STEM fields, compared with Asian men (16%), Asian women (18%), Hispanic men (18%), black men (21%) and white men (21%).

Furthermore, more than 57% of all male STEM Ph.D.s work in research and development, compared with 43% of all white female STEM Ph.D.s and 37% of black female STEM Ph.D.s. 

A 2008 NSF survey shows that the statistics for our astronomy community in terms of academic/nonacademic careers are similar to the overall STEM community results -- of the 4500 employed astronomers tracked in the study, ~55% are in academia, ~29% in private companies, and ~11% in government. Neither the AIR nor the NSF study provides the specific gender/race breakdown within astronomy. If anyone has these statistics, please do post a comment here. 

With ~half of astronomy Ph.D.s going on to nonacademic careers, our graduate programs have a responsibility to improve the professional and skills development opportunities we provide. Given the differences by gender and race, we have an additional incentive to do this. As the authors of the AIR study write:
Retention in STEM—particularly for underrepresented groups—would improve if Ph.D. training and career guidance are more relevant to the nonacademic sectors most students enter.
For ideas on what you could be doing within your department and resources on non-academic careers, check out AstroBetter's resources, APS recommendationsAAS resources, AAS Non-Academic Astronomers Network, nonacademic careers slides, Jobs for Astronomers, Jobs for Astronomers Facebook group, and the Astronomers Beyond Academia LinkedIn group. If you know of additional resources, please post them here.