Skip to content

Rachel Handforth

Exploring the Career Aspirations of Female Doctoral Students: A Longitudinal Qualitative Study


Discipline/professional area

Outline of research project

Studies have found a significant difference between the career choices of men and women after their PhD (Dever et al. 2008; Royal Society of Chemistry, 2008; Wellcome Trust, 2012). My research explores the career aspirations of female doctoral students, focusing on how these might change over the course of their PhD.

Other than in STEMM subjects, little work has been done to understand why some women choose not to stay in academia. This study will examine what shapes women's career aspirations, what impact different environments have on these aspirations, and the sorts of barriers women encounter to pursuing an academic career.

This study uses the interview method within a longitudinal study. Participants are interviewed every 6-12 months during their doctorate to explore how transitions between different stages of study affect individual aspirations. Participants are from two universities in the same city- institutions with different research profiles and priorities, and study a range of academic disciplines, which will allow for comparison of experiences

Key references

BIRCH, Lesley Jane (2011).Telling stories: A thematic narrative analysis of eight women's experiences. Doctoral dissertation, Victoria University.

BRAILSFORD, Ian (2010). Motives and aspirations for doctoral study: career, personal, and interpersonal factors in the decision to embark on a history PhD.International journal of doctoral studies,5, 15-27.

BROWN, Lorraine and WATSON, Pamela (2010). Understanding the experiences of female doctoral students.Journal of further and higher education,34(3), 385-404.

DEVER, Maryanne, et al. (2008). Gender differences in early post-PhD employment in Australian universities: The influence of PhD experience on women's academic careers. University of Queensland, Final report.

WELLCOME TRUST (2013). Risks and rewards: How PhD students choose their careers.Ipsos MORI, London.

Director of studies
Dr Carol Taylor

Jacqueline Stevenson
Pat Morton

Share this page

Cancel event

Are you sure you want to cancel your place on Saturday 12 November?