Effective Practices for Recruitment and Retention of Graduate Women


  1. Communicate to everyone in the department the importance of following the standards of professional behavior at all times, including at social events connected to the department such as at a coffee-hour, annual picnic, holiday party, etc.
  2. Provide faculty, staff, and student training on promoting an inclusive environment.
  3. Require training for faculty, staff, and teaching assistants that covers sexual harassment and the importance of treating all students with respect.
  4. Ensure everyone understands the applicable organizational policies related to inclusion. These include but are not limited to: sexual harassment, discrimination policies, and reporting procedures. In the United States, any organization receiving federal funds must follow Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Make sure students know whom to contact with any complaints.
  5. Have a department diversity & inclusion committee that can provide a venue to discuss and educate people about behaviors that can prevent students from underrepresented groups from persisting or thriving in physics – topics could include stereotype threat, imposter syndrome, implicit bias, and harassment.
  6. Consider ways to evaluate students for admission that de-emphasize GRE scores. GRE scores are not good predictors of success in graduate work (A test that fails) and tend to be biased against members of underrepresented groups (Diversity Considerations for Graduate Admissions).
  7. Target recruitment of women graduate students in order to increase the applicant pool of female candidates. Currently enrolled students can help recruiting efforts.
  8. Provide structured opportunities for students to socialize in various groups. While this is beneficial for all students, it is particularly good for women graduate students who, because of their small numbers, can suffer from isolation.
  9. Ensure that women graduate students are able to meet and discuss issues affecting them in an environment that promotes an open forum. Consider setting up a “Women in Physics” group (APS Women in Physics Groups).
  10. Set up a structure where all students must meet with their thesis committee at least once a year; this committee should not be chaired by their thesis advisor.
  11. Help encourage development of high aspirations/confidence in their abilities by providing role models and encouragement to these students. While hiring more women faculty and postdocs is the best solution, bringing in female alumni and speakers from other institutions is also helpful. It may also be useful to host a CUWiP conference (CUWiP) – this will provide opportunities for leadership development.
  12. Make sure students know about institutional support outside of the department -- women in science/engineering organizations, career center, other diversity supporting organizations, the campus Title IX office, affinity groups, etc.

The Committee on the Status of Women welcomes comments or suggestions on how to improve these effective practice guides. Please email women@aps.org to contact us.

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