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Zahorick v. Cornell University, 729 F.2d 85, 89-90 (2d Cir. 1984)


Yu Xie

University of Michigan


Our study on the career processes and outcomes of women in science has four major components. First, rather than focusing on specific segments of a science/engineering (S/E) career, we studied the entirety of a career trajectory. Second, we analyzed seventeen large, nationally representative datasets. Third, we tried to be as objective and “value-free” as possible and to emphasize empirical evidence. Finally, we based the book on a life-course approach, a combination of special methodological perspectives which recognize the following phenomena:

  1. Interactive effects across multiple levels, such as the individual level, the family level, and the school level. Individuals do not live or work in isolation from one another.

  2. Interactive effects across multiple domains, such as education, family, and work. What we do in one domain of our lives affects what we do in other domains.

  3. Individual-level variations in career tracks resulting from differences among individuals, even those with the same demographic characteristics.

  4. The cumulative nature of the life course. What happened before affects what happens now, and what is happening now affects what comes next. This is also called “path-dependency.” Because of path dependency, small differences at particular points in time can deflect trajectories and subsequently generate large differences in career outcomes.


This presentation is based on the book Yu Xie co-authored with Kimberlee Shauman entitled, Women in Science: Career Processes and Outcomes, published by Harvard University Press in 2003.

*Paper presented at the National Academies Convocation on Maximizing the Success of Women in Science and Engineering: Biological, Social, and Organizational Components of Success, held December 9, 2005, in Washington, DC.

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