CAREER BRIEF

Degree completion linked to peer support

Women are less likely to finish their PhDs if they have no female peers on their courses.

Women who enter a US PhD programme in a science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) field are less likely to graduate if relatively few other women also join, according to a report by economists Valerie Bostwick and Bruce Weinberg of Ohio State University in Columbus (see go.nature.com/2mubhhs). The authors looked at data for 2,541 students starting PhDs at public universities in Ohio from 2005 to 2009. Women accounted for nearly 40% of the sample, but their numbers varied widely between programmes. When a cohort contained just one woman, she was 12% less likely to graduate within 6 years than were her male peers. But as the proportion of women increased, so did each woman’s likelihood of obtaining a degree. The authors suggest that women’s chances of earning a STEM PhD are linked to the ‘female-friendliness’ of that programme. “If there are few or no other women in your incoming class, it can make it more difficult to complete your degree,” says Bostwick.

Nature 562, 155 (2018)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-06872-6
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