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Tips for Aspiring Female Graduate Students
Source:Chinese Women's Research Network | Release Date:2017-11-23-
Title: Tips for Aspiring Female Graduate Students
Author: Ke Rensi
Source: Global Times
Release Date: November 23, 2017
Keyword: Tips, female grad students,

Recently, Chinese sociologist Feng Gang was berated by some Chinese feminists for a controversial Weibo post dating back to 2013. He meant to vent about China's imperfect admission process for master's candidates, but the post, especially the following excerpt, was widely interpreted as prejudiced against female grad students.

"Based on my prior experience, fewer than one out of 10 female grad students continued down the academic path after graduation, and very few of them concentrated on their studies at school; most of them just muddled along for a diploma to land a job," the post said.

Although I'm a feminist, I can relate to his concerns. I have met female grad students who wish to get good grades without pulling their weight in group projects. They attend grad school largely because the degree would look good on their resumes.

Nonetheless, I also understand other feminists' rage. Many women leave academia involuntarily. A 2015 survey of gender issues in China's academic institutions revealed that discrimination against females comes from professors, colleagues, the administration, research policies and even society.

Based on my prior experience, it takes a collective effort to retain and support female scholars. Here is my advice for aspiring female grad students.

First, intellectual curiosity is the best predictor of your academic success. A scholar is to her research as a fan is to her idol. Without genuine passion, few people will willingly burn the midnight oil to study every detail about someone or something. Some students cannot stand the academic rigor of grad school partly because their love for research is not deep enough. In 2015, China Youth Daily found that 33.7 percent of students only went to grad school to avoid getting a job, and another 42.8 percent were drawn to the halo effect of prestigious universities. Fear and vanity are not exactly what I would associate with a conscientious researcher.

Second, keep an open mind. Do not limit yourself to programs that most women pick or those your family believes will bring a hefty pay packet after graduation. Peruse university catalogs, especially if you want to study abroad. Also, feel free to take a gap year or two before grad school because your brain does not fully develop until age 25 or so. You might be a more productive researcher when your prefrontal cortex, which is implicated in cognitive control and personality development, is ready for graduate school work.

Third, surround yourself with feminists. I was blessed with a rhetoric professor who raved about marginalized ancient female orators. The professor also mentored me to present a paper at a national conference and recommended me to the department chair to edit a graduate student scholarly journal. Progressive professors and colleagues keep you inspired. Cherish them and support them in return.

Fourth, when necessary, educate your loved ones to be more supportive. My parents were insanely curious about how many male students were in my classes. I cannot tell you how many times I advised them to trust my judgment and stay out of my personal affairs. I wonder whether I'd have to do that if I were male. Please protest any form of gender discrimination because you are doing yourself and everyone else a big favor.

Sisters, academia is your beat. Enjoy your grad school experience to the full!

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