This network is part of a University of Portsmouth Theme Research and Innovation Funded project, entitled 'The Life Trajectories of Women PhD Students in STEM: A comparative study of China, Serbia, and UK". Increasing women’s representation in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths (STEM) fields has been a major social reform across the globe. It is a key aspect of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 which demands full and effective participation of women in all levels of life. There is growing research that investigates how academic careers in STEM can be more accessible to women. However, little has been researched about how women’s life experiences within and beyond academia have been affected by their pursuing a PhD in STEM, especially from a cross-cultural perspective. Adopting a mixed-methods approach, this project will address two research questions: 1. whether and how female PhD students challenge gender stereotypes through their life trajectories into STEM? 2. how their life trajectories are shaped by academic and social cultures? It will compare the motivations, experiences, and future career plans of female PhD students in higher education institutions in Serbia, the UK, and China. Findings from this research will inform how doctoral training programs and higher education policies can provide gender-equal and inclusive provisions to female PhD students. It will identify role models for females finding their ways into STEM fields.

Principal investigator:

  • Dr Yuwei Xu, Lecturer in Children and Family Studies, University of Portsmouth


  • Dr Jovana Radulovic, Senior Lecturer in Engineering, University of Portsmouth
  • Dr Ming Cheng, Senior Lecturer in Education, Unversity of East Anglia
  • Dr Barbara Read, Reader in Gender and Social Inequalities, University of Glasgow 

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