Discipline-Based Education Research Group


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DBER Group Discussion on 2013‐10‐10


Copyright (c) 2013 Devasmita Chakraverty


Women in medicine and biomedical research often face challenges to their retention, promotion, and advancement to leadership positions (McPhillips et al., 2007); they take longer to advance their careers, tend to serve at less research‐intensive institutions and have shorter tenures compared to their male colleagues (White, McDade, Yamagata, & Morahan, 2012). Additionally, Blacks and Hispanics are the two largest minority groups that are vastly underrepresented in medicine and biomedical research in the United States (AAMC, 2012; NSF, 2011). The purpose of this study is to examine specific barriers reported by students and post‐degree professionals in the field through the following questions:

1. How do women who are either currently enrolled or graduated from biomedical research or medical programs define and make meaning of gender‐roles as academic barriers?

2. How do underrepresented groups in medical schools and biomedical research institutions define and make meaning of the academic barriers they face and the challenges these barriers pose to their success in the program?

These questions were qualitatively analyzed using 146 interviews from Project TrEMUR applying grounded theory. Reported gender‐role barriers were explained using the “Condition‐Process‐Outcome” theoretical framework. About one‐third of the females (across all three programs; majority White or Black between 25‐35 years of age) reported gender‐role barriers, mostly due to poor mentoring, time constraints, set expectations and institutional barriers. Certain barriers act as conditions, causing gender‐role issues, and gender‐role issues influence certain barriers that act as outcomes. Strategies to overcome barriers included interventions mostly at the institutional level (mentor support, proper specialty selection, selecting academia over medicine).

Barrier analysis for the two largest URM groups indicated that, while Blacks most frequently reported racism, gender barriers, mentoring, and personal barriers, Hispanics most frequently reported economic barriers, language barriers, institutional and workplace environment barriers, and gender‐role barriers. Examining barriers using the “Individual‐Institutional” theoretical framework indicated that barriers do not occur in isolation, but due to an interaction between the individual and its institution. Additionally, the barriers of the two groups are qualitatively different and the “one size fits all” approach may not be suitable for interventions.