Gendered Institutional Research Cultures in Science: The Post-Doc Transition for Women Scientists



Community, Work, and Family, 3 ed., vol. 16, pp. 327-349, August 2013


Special Issue on Work-Family, editor Jeremy Jacobs, University of Pennsylvania, Department of Sociology This exploratory study examines perceptions of women post-doctoral bench scientists working across fourteen major US research universities, and how both individual and institutional experiences influenced their desired futures. Findings reveal three distinct career paths (research, teaching, and industry). This study provides insight into individual career decision processes involving how gender is experienced in male-centric cultures, how experiences of barriers are reframed, and how obstacles influence their choices. These women emphasized a strong desire to contribute to their respective fields and to collaborate with others, a key relational aspect missing in their current work. All participants indicated that they aspire to have both a career and a full life beyond the lab. Findings further suggest a post-doctoral environment laden with gender and family biases to include subtle discrimination and challenges specific to women working in male-centric cultures. A strong relationship between experiences of gender and family biases suggests that additional burdens are placed on women’s career paths and their evolving identity. This study identifies the postdoctoral journey as a unique transition zone marked by a period of adaptation and selection as they make sense of their experience and decide how to best achieve success and fulfillment as women and as scientists.

Susan Case