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Improvements in gender parity but not representation among Asian American geoscience PhD graduates
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  • Daniel Ibarra,
  • Kimberly Lau,
  • Rachel Bernard,
  • Emily Cooperdock
Daniel Ibarra

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Kimberly Lau
University of California, Riverside
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Rachel Bernard
UCSD Scripps Institution of Oceanography
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Emily Cooperdock
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
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Geoscience doctoral programs are among the least diverse among STEM fields, with no progress since 1973 on ethnic and racial diversity among U.S. citizens earning doctorates in the earth, atmosphere and ocean sciences [1]. In this contribution, we examine Asian American representation in U.S. geoscience doctoral programs (defined here as U.S. citizens and permanent residents) [2]. Temporal trends of geoscience Ph.D. recipients lead to four key findings. (1) Since 1973, Asian Americans make up 5.3% of geoscience doctorates, below the current U.S. citizenry. However, since 2001, the proportion of Asian American geoscience doctorates has declined to 4.4% since 2001, while degrees earned by temporary residents have greatly increased (>85% of all Asians since 2006). (2) Trends since 1973 are impacted by a short-lived spike in Asian American geoscience Ph.D. recipients in the mid-1990s. (3) Gender parity among Asian Americans has improved from 16% female in the 1970s to 51% since 2001. (4) Within the geoscience disciplines (earth, ocean, and atmospheric), the earth sciences have lagged in Asian American representation with only 3.7% of total graduates since 2001 concentrated in a few U.S. states. In sum, Asian Americans are similar to other minority groups in that gender parity has been reached, although proportional representation has not. Additionally, the high proportion of temporary residents may bias the perception of participation by Asian Americans. Despite these findings, participation gaps from Black, Hispanic/Latino, and Native American groups lag those of Asians significantly [1]. While not categorized as ‘underrepresented’ in 2016, Asian Americans are still a minority and therefore face similar challenges to other minority groups. Further, Asian Americans represent diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds not captured by current survey methods. The active inclusion of Asian American groups in the diversity conversation may increase engagement in the geosciences and potentially encourage Asian Americans to act as allies to other groups. Through this contribution we hope to place Asian representation in the context of minority participation in the geosciences and foster a network of Asian American geoscientists. 1. doi:10.1038/s41561-018-0116-6 2. https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/2018/nsf18304/