Been there, done that.

After six years of grad school, there are a few things I've picked up from personal experience and a whole lot of time talking with other female grad students (AKA procrastinating). I've always wished there had been some kind of handbook about how to handle the whole world of graduate school, so I figured I'd start a friendly place to discuss what it's like to be female in grad school, and maybe pass on some wisdom too!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Diversity in Graduate School

Considering that today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I figure that it is only appropriate that I pay a small homage to the man, and post a little about graduate school diversity. I mean, this is technically the Girls Guide, and by being female and in graduate school, we are technically increasing the diversity of the institution :) (Although, actually, males in graduate schools are actually shrinking in numbers, so I'm not sure what this means today...)

Anyhow, in poking around on the net some, particularly on the Council of Graduate Schools website there is a wealth of information about the diversity of graduate students across the county. The most recent report they have posted there (a 114pg behemoth of a thing) notes this:

"Over the latest one-, five-, and ten-year periods, growth in first-time graduate
enrollment among U.S. citizens and permanent residents has been greater
for racial/ethnic minorities than for Whites.... Between fall 2008
and fall 2009, Asian/Pacific Islander first-time enrollment increased fastest at
9.3%, compared with 5.3% for Whites. Over the last five-year period,
Blacks/African Americans had the greatest average annual growth and
Whites the least, and over the last ten-year period, Hispanics/Latinos had the
greatest average annual growth and Whites the least."

Interesting, right? Now, I'm not going to get into what I think about the actual categories that they mention (I mean, I do teach Human Biological Variation and we always are talking about how these categories are seriously arbitrary--I mean, just for example, what is "white"? It actually encompasses almost as much diversity as the Asian/Pacific Islander group. Does. Not. Make. Sense.), but over all what we're seeing is that most schools are seeing many more minority students apply, which in my book is a really great thing. If we need diversity anywhere, it's in graduate school and in the academic community, which has seen the old-boy mentality for far too long.

More specifically for women, we see this:

"As described earlier, first-time enrollment growth has been stronger for
women than for men over the last ten-year period. This pattern held true for
most broad fields between fall 1999 and fall 2009, with the average annual
increases for women outpacing those for men in all but four broad fields
over the ten-year period: arts and humanities, mathematics and computer
sciences, public administration and services, and ‘other’ fields (Table 3.10
and Figure 3.10). For women, the average annual rates of increase were
greatest in health sciences (6.5%), engineering (6.4%), and business
(6.0%). Average annual growth was smallest in arts and humanities (1.9%),
physical and earth sciences (2.5%), and ‘other’ fields (2.8%) over the

Okay, so I know these are kind of data heavy quotes, but they note the trends of where women and minorities are picking up speed. Pretty interesting. Now, there's always the question of diversity for diversity's sake: something that I found quite a few articles on while hunting around on google, but I don't think this is the case for graduate school. Sure, there are a lot of diversity-oriented grants and stuff, but to even get considered for graduate school, you have to have a pretty outstanding record, which isn't going to be oriented around your background as much as around your accomplishments.

Anyhow, this is an interesting trend, and something I'd love to hear your thoughts on!

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