The impact of biomedical students’ ethnicity and gender

Christine Nittrouer (Department of Psychology, Rice University, Houston, Texas, USA)
Katharine Ridgway O’Brien (Department of Human Resources, CUNA Mutual Group, Madison, Wisconsin, USA)
Michelle Hebl (Department of Psychology, Rice University, Houston, Texas, USA)
Rachel C.E. Trump-Steele (Department of Psychology, Rice University, Houston, Texas, USA)
Danielle M. Gardner (Department of Psychology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA)
John Rodgers (Department of Pathology and Immunology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, USA)

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

ISSN: 2040-7149

Publication date: 16 April 2018



There has been a great deal of research published on the lower success rates of women and underrepresented (UR) students in Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics-related (STEM) occupations. For biomedical scientists in particular, many of the obstacles to success occur during graduate training and may be related, at least in part, to certain demographic characteristics (i.e. gender or ethnicity). In particular, women and UR students may be positioned disproportionately into labs with fewer resources and less productive faculty advisors. The paper aims to discuss these issues.


The present study examines the distribution of biomedical science graduate students into research laboratories, based on the gender and ethnicity of both students and faculty advisors. This is archival data that were collected via publicly available information on the internet.


Results indicate that female (vs male) students and UR (vs white and Asian) students are paired with advisors who are less successful (i.e. fewer publications, lower h-indices). Additionally, the data show patterns of homophily in that female (vs male) and white and Asian (vs UR) students are more likely to be paired with female and white and Asian advisors, respectively.


This research uses real-world, archival data to demonstrate that phenomena suggested in previous literature (e.g. less favorable pairings for female and UR students, homophilic pairings) occurs with this specific population.



Nittrouer, C., O’Brien, K., Hebl, M., Trump-Steele, R., Gardner, D. and Rodgers, J. (2018), "The impact of biomedical students’ ethnicity and gender", Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Vol. 37 No. 3, pp. 254-264.

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