Women’s and men’s career choices in astronomy and astrophysics
[This paper is part of the Focused Collection on Gender in Physics.] The Longitudinal Study of Astronomy Graduate Students (LSAGS) arose from the 2003 Women in Astronomy Conference, where it was noted that a majority of young members of the American Astronomical Society were women. The astronomy community wishes to make every effort to retain young women in astronomy, so they commissioned a longitudinal study to be conducted that would pinpoint the factors that contribute to retention in general, with a focus on differences between women and men. The LSAGS follows a cohort of people who were graduate students in astronomy or astrophysics during 2006–07. The first survey was conducted during 2007–08 and the second during 2012–13. The analysis presented in this paper used a subset of the respondents, all of whom had Ph.D.s in astronomy, astrophysics, or a related field at the time of the second survey. We tested the effects of four major concepts on two measures of attrition from physics and astronomy. These concepts included the imposter syndrome, mentoring and advising during graduate school, the “two-body problem” that occurs when a couple needs to find two jobs in the same geographic area, and the sex of the respondent. While the imposter syndrome and mentoring affected the likelihood of respondents’ thinking about leaving the field, they did not directly contribute to actually working in a field that was not physics or astronomy. Relationship with graduate advisors and the two-body problem both had significant effects on working in physics or astronomy, as did completing a postdoc. The sex of the respondent had no direct effect on our measures of attrition, but indirectly affected attrition because women were less likely to report positive relationships with graduate advisors and more likely to report two-body problems. This research identifies specific areas of concern that can be addressed by the scientific community to increase the retention of all people, but especially women, in astronomy and astrophysics.
Ivie, R., White, S., & Chu, R. Y. (2016). Women’s and men’s career choices in astronomy and astrophysics. Physical Review Physics Education Research, 12(2), 020109. https://doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevPhysEducRes.12.020109
Type of Publication
Ivie, Rachel | White, Susan | Chu, Raymond Y.
American Institute of Physics | American Institute of Physics | American Institute of Physics
Physical Review Special Topics - Physics Education Research
American Physical Society
Nation(s) of Study
United States of America