How Retention, Not Just Recruitment, Hinders STEM Diversity

How Retention, Not Just Recruitment, Hinders STEM Diversity

A new study in PLOS One says that retention is a major factor in why certain ethnic groups remain underrepresented in the natural sciences, technology, engineering and math. Using National Science Foundation data and controlling for recruitment of diverse scholars, the authors found that “failed retention contributes to mis-representation across academia and that the stages responsible for the largest disparities differ by race and ethnicity.” Among Black and Hispanic scholars, the transition, or pipeline from graduate student to postdoctoral researcher, is especially leaky, as is the transition to and within faculty ranks for Native Americans and Pacific Islanders, according to the study. Retention is also a complicated issue for Asians and Asian Americans in STEM, even thoughts these scholars are often perceived as being well represented, the paper says.

Lead author Allison Shaw, associate professor of ecology, evolution and behavior at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, said in a statement that “understanding and addressing misrepresentation in academia is critical if we want to build a community that truly reflects and realizes the potential of the society it aims to serve.”

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