In May 2021 an email invitation was sent out to 2,452 Stanford postdoctoral scholars, inviting them to participate in the IDEAL DEI survey. By the time the survey closed in June, 763 postdoctoral invitees (31%) had completed the survey.
Primary purposes of the IDEAL DEI survey included collecting new and more detailed information about who we are as a community and exploring how race and ethnicity shape the experiences of community members at Stanford. For example, the IDEAL survey asked postdoctoral scholars questions about gender identity, socio-economic background, disability, and more. Below are several examples of new information about the demographics and identities represented among the postdoctoral scholars who responded to the survey. We encourage you to explore the survey data further in the IDEAL Survey Demographics Dashboards. You can also find information for the full postdoctoral scholar population on the IDEAL Dashboard, which displays diversity data from university records (and does not incorporate data from this survey).
Racial or Ethnic Identity
When comparing the seven broad racial and ethnic identity categories included on the survey (respondents were asked to check all of the categories that apply from the following list: American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian or Asian American, Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino/a, Middle Eastern or North African, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, and White or European) to university records (see the IDEAL dashboard), postdoctoral survey respondents generally resemble the overall racial and ethnic distribution of the postdoctoral scholar population. Over 80% of postdoctoral survey respondents identified as either White or European or Asian or Asian American. However, when exploring additional detail provided by postdocs to describe their racial or ethnic identity, the data shows that they provided over 150 unique sub-categories to further describe their racial or ethnic identity in follow-up questions. For example, of the 37% of postdoc survey respondents who selected Asian or Asian American as one of their racial or ethnic identities, respondents provided 30 unique specific racial or ethnic identifiers (e.g., Chinese, Indian, Korean, etc.) to describe their Asian or Asian American ethnicity.
The survey data also show that the postdoc survey respondents are a highly international community - sixty-eight percent (68%) identified their “country of origin” as a country other than the U.S. When exploring the intersection of race and country of origin among postdocs, the data showed over 70 unique combinations among postdoc survey respondents (see chart below).
Gender and Sexual Identity
When asked to describe their gender identity:
- 3% of postdoc survey respondents (N=22) identified as at least one of the following responses: gender nonconforming, genderqueer, nonbinary, questioning, or trans.
- With regard to sexual identity, approximately 17% of postdoc survey respondents identified as something other than heterosexual or straight.
- When exploring the intersection of gender and sexual identity, approximately 18% of postdoc survey respondents reported combinations of identities other than a heterosexual/straight man or heterosexual/straight woman.
On the IDEAL Survey Demographic dashboards, you can view additional demographic and identity characteristics of survey respondents, and their intersections, including:
- Religious or spiritual identities
- Parents’ educational background
- Self-identified as coming from a low-income background
For example, 58% of postdoc survey respondents reported that English is not their native language. Twenty-seven percent (27%) of postdocs identified as coming from a low-income background. And twenty-two percent (22%) of postdocs identified as having been a first generation college student.
Inclusion and Sense of Belonging at Stanford
The survey covered several different aspects that might contribute to a respondent’s overall experience of inclusion or sense of belonging at Stanford:
- feeling valued
- finding groups, communities or spaces of inclusion or exclusion
- general aspects of psychological safety while participating in day-to-day activities associated with a respondent’s role at Stanford
Overall, 55% of all postdocs agreed that they “felt valued as an individual at Stanford,” and 68% said they felt valued in their department or work unit. Eighty-three percent (83%) agreed they felt valued in their lab or research group.
- Forty-five percent (45%) of postdocs who identified as having a disability agreed with feeling valued as an individual at Stanford, compared to 56% of the postdocs who did not identify as disabled.
- 41% of Middle Eastern or North African postdocs agreed with feeling valued at Stanford.
Inclusion and Exclusion
Postdocs had both the lowest rate, compared to other roles (e.g. students, staff, faculty) at Stanford, of finding a community, group, or space in which they felt welcome, and postdocs also had the lowest rate of having found a community, group or space in which they felt marginalized or excluded. On average, 71% of postdoctoral survey respondents reported having found at least one community, group, or space in which they felt welcome. This is relatively consistent across all racial or ethnic identity categories, with the exception that 61% of postdocs who identified as Middle Eastern or North African reported they had found a community, group, or space at Stanford where they felt welcome.
On average, 17% of postdoctoral survey respondents reported having found at least one community, group, or space in which they felt marginalized or excluded. Twenty-five percent (25%) of those who identified as Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino/a, Middle Eastern or North African reported finding a community, group, or space where they felt marginalized or excluded. Eighteen percent (18%) of those who identified as Asian or Asian American and 14% of White or European respondents reported finding a community, group, or space where they felt marginalized or excluded.
(Psychological safety definition may be found on the Definitions page)
The survey asked a set of questions to gauge feelings of respect and safety in a postdoc’s work unit. Levels of psychological safety varied among postdocs by race and ethnicity and other identities. For example:
- 61% of postdocs who identified as Black or African American agreed that they “have to work harder than others to be perceived as a legitimate scholar.” 18% of White or European respondents agreed with this statement.
- 36% of Middle Eastern or North African postdocs agreed that “In my department/unit, people are sometimes rejected for being different.”
- 42% of postdocs who identified as having a disability agreed that they “often feel under scrutiny by the people in my department or work unit.”
You can explore these findings further in the Belonging and Inclusion dashboards.
Experience with Microaggression, Discriminatory Behaviors, and Harassing Behaviors
The survey asked about individuals' experiences with microaggression and harassing and discriminatory behaviors. (You can find out more about how the survey asked about these experiences in the FAQ document). Experiences with these behaviors at Stanford were broadly present across postdoctoral survey respondents in all Schools at Stanford. Across all Schools with more than 10 postdoctoral survey respondents, at least 25% indicated that they had experienced at least one of these behaviors within the last two years.
Overall, 31% of postdoctoral scholars experienced at least one of these behaviors within the last two years. More than 25% of postdoctoral scholars in every school with more than 10 survey respondents indicated they experienced at least one of these behaviors within the last two years.
Before further discussing the prevalence of these experiences it is important to highlight the impact that these harmful behaviors had on postdocs:
- 74% of postdocs who experienced at least one instance of microaggression, discriminatory, or verbal or physical harassing behaviors indicated at least one significant impact associated directly with that experience.
- 19% of postdocs who experienced microaggression, 42% who experienced verbal harassing behaviors, and 58% who experienced at least one discriminatory behavior felt their experiences “interfered with their academic or professional performance.”
- Subsequent to their experiences, 28% felt uncomfortable voicing their opinions, 23% changed their daily routine, and 22% felt ostracized or excluded.
“Microaggression” is used as a term for commonplace daily verbal, behavioral or environmental slights, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative attitudes toward stigmatized or culturally marginalized groups (Sue 2010). Racial microaggressions are “brief, everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to people of color because they belong to a racial minority group”(Sue et al 2007).
The word “microaggression” itself never appeared on the survey. Rather, respondents were asked whether they experienced specific types of behaviors during the last two years by someone associated with Stanford:
- Someone invalidated your lived experience due to your racial or ethnic identity,
- Someone assumed you were inferior due to your racial or ethnic identity,
- Someone acted as if they were afraid or wary of you due to your racial or ethnic identity,
- Someone made you feel othered or exoticized due to your racial or ethnic identity.
Each of these questions also listed several concrete examples of these behaviors. In this report, we use the collective term microaggression to describe any of these experienced behaviors.
The percent of respondents who experienced microaggressions ranges when comparing across demographic groups - particularly by racial or ethnic identity. For example, 54% who identified as Black or African American experienced microaggressions. Of postdocs who identified with racial or ethnic identities other than (or in addition to) White or European, 23% to 43% experienced microaggressions, while 11% of White or European postdocs experienced microaggressions.
(Discriminatory behaviors definition may be found on the Definitions page)
Survey respondents were directly asked, during the last two years, “have you ever experienced discriminatory behaviors by someone associated with Stanford?” For example:
- Denied equitable research opportunities
- Unfair hiring
- Denied leave request (including vacation)
- Denied or overlooked for professional development or mentorship opportunities
Of those who experienced discriminatory behaviors, the survey asked whether the respondents felt the behaviors were due to their race or ethnic identity.
- 11% of postdocs experienced discriminatory behaviors. 23% of postdocs who identified as Hispanic or Latino/a experienced discriminatory behaviors. 12-16% of respondents who identified as Black or African American, Middle Eastern or North African, or White or European experienced discriminatory behaviors; 8% of Asian or Asian American postdocs experienced discriminatory behaviors.
- Of those who experienced discriminatory behaviors, 15% indicated they felt the experiences were due to their race or ethnicity. Of those, the most common form of discrimination was being “denied equitable research opportunities,” “unfair hiring” and “denied or overlooked for professional development.”
Verbal, Written, or Online Harassing Behaviors
Survey respondents were asked:
During the last two years you have been employed at Stanford (or fewer, depending on when you were hired), have you ever experienced verbal, written, or online harassing behaviors by someone associated with Stanford? For example:
- Someone made a derogatory remark or gesture in person or online
- Someone sent me a derogatory email, text, or social media post
- Someone defaced property with derogatory graffiti
- I was embarrassed, humiliated, or threatened by someone in person or online
Thirteen percent (13%) of all postdoctoral survey respondents experienced verbal, written, or online harassing behaviors. Experiences with verbal harassing behaviors ranges when comparing across demographics groups. For example:
- 38% of postdocs who identified as Black or African American experienced verbal harassing behaviors
- 27% of postdocs who indicated having a disability experienced verbal harassing behaviors.
When asked about their experiences with verbal, online, or written harassing behaviors, 45% of postdoc survey respondents indicated a faculty member or instructor was a perpetrator. Thirty-one percent (31%) said another postdoc was a perpetrator.
Impacts of These Experiences Among Postdoctoral Scholars
When reflecting on the totality of their experiences, the most commonly indicated impacts among postdoctoral survey respondents who experienced at least one of the four types of behaviors (verbal harassing behaviors, physical harassing behaviors, microaggressions, and discriminatory behaviors) included: feeling uncomfortable voicing their opinions (28%), changing their daily routine (23%), and feeling ostracized or excluded (22%).
When asked about the impacts directly associated with each of the four experiences surveyed:
- Of postdocs who experienced microaggressions, approximately 50% indicated that they experienced some sort of significant impact as a result of these behaviors. The most commonly cited impact was “Created an intimidating, hostile, or offensive social, academic, or work environment.”
- Of postdocs who experienced discriminatory behaviors, approximately 90% indicated that they experienced some sort of significant impact as a result of these behaviors. The most commonly cited impact was “Interfered with your academic or professional performance” (58%)
- Of postdocs who experienced verbal harassing behaviors, approximately 80% indicated that they experienced some sort of significant impact as a result of these behaviors. The most commonly cited impact was “Created an intimidating, hostile, or offensive social, academic, or work environment.” (61%).
For More Information
We encourage you to explore the survey findings by viewing dashboards on:
Sue, D. W. (2010). Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation. Wiley. pp. xvi. ISBN 978-0-470-49140-9.
Sue, D. W., Capodilupo, C. M., Torino, G. C., Bucceri, J. M., Holder, A., Nadal, K. L., & Esquilin, M. (2007). Racial microaggressions in everyday life: implications for clinical practice. American psychologist, 62(4), 271.