Black and African American Women Postdocs in STEM: Their Experiences and Career Plans

Jonathan Robert Stark, University of Pennsylvania


Within the education-to-career pathways, what is largely absent from the literature regarding women and underrepresented minorities’ (URM) participation in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines are a complete understanding of their entrance into the employment sector immediately following the completion of a doctoral degree (Jaeger et al., 2017). For many doctoral graduates, the first position following the conferral of a doctoral degree is often a postdoctoral position (NSF, 2019a). Postdoctoral fellowships (postdocs) have been seen as a necessary prerequisite and critical entry point into future careers in STEM (Chen et al., 2015; Hudson et al., 2018; Su, 2013). Postdoc positions often serve as opportunities for newly minted doctoral degree recipients to engage in continued mentorship, on-going research training, as well as socialization into their respective disciplinary domains (Akerlind, 2005; Kaslow & Mascaro, 2007; Margolis & Romero, 1998). While literature is emerging that speaks to the experiences of postdoctoral women and URM (Lambert et al., 2020; Yadav & Seals, 2019), there still exists a need for research that looks within these groups given their distinct attributes at the intersection of race and gender (Ireland et al., 2018). This qualitative study explores the experiences and perceived career trajectories of 33 United State citizen and/or permanent resident who self-identified as Black and African American women with earned STEM doctoral degrees, who were also employed in the U.S. as postdocs at the time of the semi-structured one-on-one interviews. Using science identity and research self-efficacy as lenses to contextualize their experiences, this research expands the understanding of and the utilization of these factors, as well as the emergence, absence or presence of advocacy from others and from within themselves as they advance in their careers.

Subject Area

Higher education|Science education|Black studies|Womens studies

Recommended Citation

Stark, Jonathan Robert, "Black and African American Women Postdocs in STEM: Their Experiences and Career Plans" (2021). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI28646799.