Potential Interventions to Aid in Retaining Postdoc Women
A clearinghouse of promising practices
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D. PROGRAMS: Postdoctoral Career Development
1. Workshops for female postdocs on becoming faculty, which can allow sharing of “tacit knowledge” about the system of getting a job (i.e. what kind of record do you need to get a faculty job?)
- Brown University workshop on “’PI 101’: Key Advice for the Newly Independent Investigator” which covers inside knowledge on becoming an independent investigator, including aspects of responsible conduct of research.
- George Washington University’s and Gallaudet University’s ADVANCE program developed an annual “Forward to the Professorship” workshop for students and postdocs that share “how to” information on obtaining a faculty position
- University of Maryland Baltimore County’s ADVANCE program sponsored “Faculty Horizons Workshops” for grads and postdocs with practical advice on obtaining a faculty position, such as how to negotiate an offer.
- University of California San Francisco Center for Gender Equity offered professional development conferences for women students and postdocs on personal and professional choices and challenges facing them in their careers.
- Johns Hopkins University Professional Day: How to succeed in the academic world
- Many ADVANCE programs have developed training tools for search committees including how to avoid bias (c.f. University of Michigan’s STRIDE program). This information could be adapted for postdocs on desirable points to look for in a permanent position and how to watch for red flags during a search process.
2. Workshops on the faculty job search process
- Workshops on job searching in general, including CVs and resumes.
- Case Western Professional Skills Program for graduate students and postdocs includes sessions on a variety of professional and career development issues, including for example, “Job Hunt: How to Find an Academic Position”
- UC San Francisco's Office of Career and Professional Development offers full access to postdocs to its resources, for example regarding the academic job search.
- Workshops or resources on interviewing and negotiating, including approaches for negotiating future positions as well as current terms of postdoc appointment (e.g. dedicated technical assistance, ability to take project with you when position ends).
3. Establish or make available institutional career services for postdocs
- University of Washington Office of Postdoctoral Affairs has collaborated with the career center to offer career counseling services to postdocs for a small fee
- Medical College of Wisconsin has established a Virtual Career Center online that offers a library of self-help and career resources for postdocs
4. Encourage use of research and career plan to track personal skill development and career milestone attainment in order to have more realistic understanding of abilities. Offer workshops/training on various tools to encourage their use.
- Other tools for career planning
- Kansas State’s ADVANCE program has developed Career MAPS, which are a tool for mapping out a faculty members career trajectory and progress. This could be adapted for postdoc career benchmarks, such as adding certain types of training in core competency areas in addition to publications and service.
5. Coaching and advice on career transitions and planning
- Developed under an NSF ADVANCE leadership award to University of Washington and University of California Santa Cruz, the Women Evolving Biological Sciences (WEBS) annual symposium brings early-career women (primarily postdocs) together for a retreat and symposia on issues related to transitioning to faculty careers in the biological sciences.It offers information on getting a faculty position, pitfalls and challenges for women in academia and networking and mentoring opportunities from peers and senior scientists.
6. Workshops/education on the job market, targeting postdocs and postdoc supervisors and mentors, in order to foster better understanding of career alternatives to the PI track to better match skills and interests as well as avoid any "crisis of expectations" with the academic job market
- Case Western's Professional Skills Program for graduate students and postdocs includes sessions on a variety of professional and career development issues, including for example, “Job Hunt: How to Find an Academic Position.”
- Similarly, many institutions hold workshops or panels on the variety of careers Ph.D.-trained researchers have pursued. Encouraging postdocs to participate in such programs, without the stigma of becoming a failure for considering non-faculty positions, will help them maximize their marketability for many career paths, including the tenure track.
7. Provide information for postdocs on family-friendly policies for postdocs and faculty, including information at postdocs’ current institution as well as institutions looking to hire postdocs into permanent positions. Information could include helpful Web sites as well as postdoc and/or faculty handbooks or orientation resources directed at new postdocs or new faculty.
8. Provide training to postdocs on performance evaluations, such as ways to avoid unconscious evaluation bias.
- Tools like Georgia Institute of Technology’s ADEPT online tool could be adapted to educate both postdocs and their evaluators on ways to avoid bias. This tool focuses specifically on promotion and tenure scenarios, involving the learner in the evaluation process itself through case studies, but a mixture of tenure review and postdoc assessment case studies would make it pertinent to postdocs interested in becoming faculty.
9. Develop “how to” brochure/information for letter of recommendation writers.These should be shared with both postdocs and faculty.
10. Workshops/education on how to get a good letter of recommendation, based on education of letter writers on gender schemas .
- Develop workshops using the above resources.
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 Valian, V. 1998. Why so slow? The advancement of women. Cambridge: MIT Press.
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0819994. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.