Researchers must go past enrolment figures to solve leaky pipeline problem

February 25, 2015

Simply increasing the number of women and underrepresented minorities studying in STEM disciplines may not be enough to solve the so-called "leaky pipeline" problem, whereby qualified individuals leave the university rather than take up an academic position. A recent survey of 1,500 biomedical PhD students showed that a disproportionately low number of women and members of minority groups expressed an interest in pursuing a career at a research university. Underrepresented-minority females were twice as likely as those from all other groups to say they were interested in non-research careers. The researchers behind the study say that their findings point to the need to address the effects of structural issues that affect career choice. While an academic career is by no means the only measure of success, researchers are interested in uncovering just what is deterring these groups from following that path. Some have suggested that members of underrepresented groups are more interested in public outreach than members of other groups, as well as in opportunities to apply their knowledge more directly. The Chronicle of Higher Education (Subscription Required)