Owing to lack of female peers, as much as 10 per cent women usually tend to drop out of their doctoral programmes in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) -- an area of study considered to be male-dominated, finds a research.
The study showed that fewer the females entering a doctoral programme, the less likely any one of them will graduate within six years.
Typically male programmes, including chemical engineering, computer science and physics, the average number of women who joined a class in any particular year was less than five.
In addition, a woman is 12 per cent less likely to graduate within six years as compared to her male classmates if there is only one female student in the class, the researchers said.
"It has been nearly impossible to quantify the climate for women in male-dominated STEM fields," said Valerie Bostwick, post-doctoral researcher at The Ohio State University in the US.
"But our data gave us a unique opportunity to try to measure what it is like for women in STEM. What we found suggests that if there are few or no other women in your incoming class, it can make it more difficult to complete your degree," Bostwick added. The results were published on the website of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Moreover, failing to obtain research funding as easily as their male peers could be one reason that obstructs female students to finish their programme in STEM, the researchers noted.
"It may be hard to feel like you belong when you don't see other women around you. There may be subtle discrimination," Bostwick added.
However, the findings suggest that the enrolment of an additional 10 per cent of women in a new class was associated with narrowing that gender gap in on-time graduation rates by more than 2 percentage points.
The study further revealed that an improved concentration of females in doctoral programmes may play a key role in promoting gender parity in the STEM fields.
For the study, the team included 2,541 students who enrolled in 33 graduate programmes at six Ohio public universities between 2005 and 2016.
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