#DiversityJC recap: Why minority students avoid certain disciplines

This past week’s Diversity Journal Club (#DiversityJC), we discussed this article suggested by our friend Melissa Wilson Sayres. This article postulates that beliefs about evolution, those I was simply hand-wringing over, actually do have an impact on minority students entering into evolutionary biology.

Factors influencing minority student decisions to consider a career in evolutionary biology

We also suggested a secondary reading from @ and @ This blogpost states that scientists from underrepresented minority (URM) groups and women seek research-focused academic careers less often than males from well-represented groups, even when they have “the same level of research productivity and … the same mentoring. Also,This and other work shows that women and URM scientists on average “choose differently.” Their choices are made “outside of ability, outside of competence”—but in keeping with expressed desires to pursue social justice, community involvement, and altruism:

What’s the purpose of a scientific career?

We had a tiny group this week, and I apologize for not doing a great job leading our discussion. Still recovering from my personal issues. Anyways, I started the conversation by throwing a question from our article:

One clear issue stated by Biochem Belle was representation in the field. Meaning, strong influence by presence of those of similar race/ethnicity. It seems that ~100% of WOC do service/outreach, as Alycia Austin pointed out. But that’s not all. Dr. Wrasse also suggested 1) exposure to job diversity with regard to choosing a major and 2) a feeling of having to land well paying job.

YES! Very important for probably all participants of our #DiversityJC. I am happy to see some job adds asking for a “Diversity statement”, and although it still doesn’t count for tenure, is a beginning! In that line Biochem Belle shared this article with us, where they examine application materials (diversity statements) for assistant professor positions in 3 academic disciplines.

Although religion seemed to play a big part in the decisions, according to our article, our group didn’t agree with that. This may be PART of the history, but it is unlikely that religion and science cannot coexist.

So true. One thing this #DiversityJC made me realize is that I don’t serve the community as much as I should. And I hope that you all state the importance of diversity and community service. And let’s do more of it!

Thank you all that joined our #DiversityJC this week: Rebecca Pollet (@rmpollet), PinkGlitteryBrain (@aiquintero), Biochem Belle (@biochembelle), Dr. Wrasse (@labroides), Alycia Mosley Austin (@AlyciaPhD).  And hope to see you all next week, when we are planning to discuss the struggles of our current job market and alternative jobs!

Emily Klein (@DrEmilySKlein) and Doctor_PMS (@Doctor_PMS)


3 thoughts on “#DiversityJC recap: Why minority students avoid certain disciplines

  1. I was sorry to leave the discussion early this time! I agree that the article focused on religion, but it’s likely not such a divisive factor. Perhaps more of an indicator of deeper differences. I think there are very religious groups across the board, and deciding that religion is why minorities don’t consider evolutionary bio is missing the forest for the trees.

    The Science blog by Beryl Lieff Benderly and Kenneth Gibbs’s work likely hits closer to the mark: Our lives are rich and we hold many things important. Increasingly, I think minorities and women are wanting more from their careers – more value placed on things they hold important, like social justice work. Personally, I’m in this category: I’ll leave academia for a job that actually supports me to do diversity work. White, predominately wealthy men are already well established in academia as a group – have been educated and hired as part of system that does not value say social justice work. Moreover, as the privileged group, they don’t have to care about social justice and diversity. The rest of us do.

    In addition, it’s very much what Biochem Belle pointed out: representation. As a white person of privilege, I can barely understand what it’s like not seeing someone like me represented. If you don’t see people like you going on and being successful in certain fields, you likely internalize that. This is in conjunction with a plethora of unconscious and conscious biases we encounter daily telling us what we are and are not good at. Taken together, this can be a very powerful force on a person’s choices and career path.

    Finally, Dr. Wrasse’s point is also critical. From research, we know many minority and first generation students feel pressure to go into certain fields as they are one of the first in their families to go to college. They may also lack access to experience those other fields as kids or young adults – even in college. They may not have heard “do whatever you want!” like I did, and instead are more concerned with using a college degree to make money – either through overt pressure to do so, or internalized desire to rise above their current socio-economic status.

    In any event, I think it’s far more complicated than just assuming certain people are more religious.

    Liked by 1 person

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