Panel Paper: Nevertheless She Persisted? Gender Peer Effects in Doctoral STEM Programs

Thursday, November 8, 2018
8229 - Lobby Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Valerie Bostwick and Bruce Weinberg, The Ohio State University

This paper examines the role of peer gender composition within STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) doctoral programs on persistence and degree completion. We show that peer gender composition provides a proxy for the female-friendliness of a particular cohort environment and can be used to study the impact of climate on the gender gap in STEM fields. This paper introduces a new dataset that links a panel of graduate students’ administrative transcript records from all public universities in the state of Ohio to data from the UMETRICS project, which provides information on the research environment for all students who are supported by federal research grants. Utilizing within-program variation in the gender compo- sition of doctoral cohorts, we identify the effect of female peers on Ph.D. persistence and completion. We find that women who enter into cohorts with no female peers are 11.9pp less likely to graduate within 6 years than their male counterparts. However, a 1 sd increase in the percentage of female peers in a cohort differentially increases the probability of on-time graduation for women by 4.6pp. These gender peer effects function almost completely through changes in the probability of dropping out in the first year of a Ph.D. program and are largest in programs that are typically male-dominated.