Examining the Impact of Race and Ethnicity on the PostDoc Hiring Process

A new study by scholars at the University of California, Davis finds that there are significant differences by gender and race-ethnicity in application rates for postdoc positions, and in whether an applicant is seriously considered, interviewed, and offered the postdoc opportunity.

The authors analyzed the hiring process for a large group postdoc positions advertised in STEMM fields from 2013 to 2021 at nine universities, presumably members of the University of California System. More than 28,000 applications were reviewed.

The authors found that only 9 percent of all applicants were seriously considered for the postdoc positions. White applicants were among the most likely to reach that stage, along with women who identified as Black, Latina, or Native American. Asian applicants and Black, Latino, or Native American men were the least likely.

As the process progressed, Black, Latina, or Native American women were the most likely to be interviewed. But Black, Latina, or Native American women were the least likely of the interviewed candidates to be offered the job.

“Thousands of doctorates are hired annually into postdoctoral positions at research universities. These scholars are an essential part of the STEMM workforce, and they make up the population from which are drawn the future university faculty and leading researchers in STEMM,” the authors write. “Given the influence that postdoctoral training has on both individual careers and the conduct of research nationally, ensuring equal and inclusive access to, experience during, and placement after postdoctoral positions is key to achieving equity and innovation in STEMM.”

The full study, “Gender, Race-Ethnicity and Postdoctoral Hiring in STEMM Fields” was published in the journal Social Science Research. It may be accessed here.

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