Problems Faced by Female Doctoral Students in a University Setting: Findings from a Focus-Group Study

Tamar Wittenberg-Szekely, Yael Hershkovitz, Bar Yuval-Shani, Vered Slonim-Nevo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Twenty-four doctoral students who participated in four focus-group discussion sessions are the focal point of this paper. Ten were doctoral students in Humanities, Social Sciences, and Health sciences and fourteen in Engineering and Life sciences. They were asked about their experiences in the university, difficulties, advantages, conflicts, their support system, and what they need in order to succeed in academia. Findings suggest that there are common advantages to being a doctoral female student as well as difficulties and barriers to success. Advantages include: the ability to work in an interesting field, the ability to invest time for research, and personal development. The main problems raised by the participants were: financial difficulties resulting from meager academic scholarships, and on-going conflicts between the demands of their academic work and family life (motherhood, in particular), and insufficient recognition of specific needs related to their female status (e.g., childbearing and nursing time). Other difficulties were: difficulties in competing in male-oriented surroundings, loneliness, lack of a support system within the university setting, and an insecure professional future. The participants emphasized that the ways to assist them and encourage their academic progress are not through counseling and support groups, but rather through real assistance in the form of financial incentives (e.g. elevated scholarships), university regulations (e.g., extra time for a student who has a new child), and the establishment of an information center.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-144
JournalThe Journal of the World Universities Forum
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2008


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