G S T logo

Barriers Beyond Equity: An Exploratory Study of Women Graduate Students’ Career Pathways in Astronomy

Ramón Barthelemy, Melinda McCormick, Charles Henderson


Compared to physics, the field of astronomy has a relatively high representation of women. Most research, however, focuses on physics and ignores astronomy, even though the academic requirements for the two show significant overlap. This project explores the lived experiences of five women in a graduate program of Astronomy at a research-intensive university that had almost double the number of female faculty than the national average. Given that this program is identified as female-friendly by the participants and that all of the participants passed their qualifying exams to move into the PhD program, their stories offer insight into the perseverance of women in the field of academic astronomy. In turn, this may inform physics departments how better to help women to persist in their field. The narratives of these participants, however, show concern about current models of success which continue to adhere to the pipeline model or career trajectory. Instead, these women define success as having work-life balance and long for career pathways which allow them to attain many life goals, not just an academic life goal.


Women in science; astronomy; gender in science; career; mentoring

Full Text: