Original Research

Journal of Genetic Counseling

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 53-69

First online:

What Is It Like To Be in the Minority? Ethnic and Gender Diversity in the Genetic Counseling Profession

  • K. Cheri SchoonveldAffiliated withMaternal Fetal Medicine Center, Fairview Health Services
  • , Patricia McCarthy VeachAffiliated withDepartment of Educational Psychology, University of Minnesota Email author 
  • , Bonnie S. LeRoyAffiliated withDepartment of Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development, Institute of Human Genetics, University of Minnesota

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Increasingly, the genetic counseling profession is recognizing the need for greater ethnic and gender diversity. Recruitment and retention efforts may be enhanced by better understanding of the experience of individuals considered to be underrepresented in the profession. In this qualitative study, 8 genetic counseling students and 7 practicing genetic counselors who were ethnic minority and/or male participated in semi-structured telephone interviews regarding how they were introduced to the field, perceived career supports and barriers, their experiences within training programs and the field, and suggestions for increasing diversity. Introduction to the field tended to be late and accidental. There were several career supports (e.g., field combines science and helping others) and barriers (e.g., lack of information about the field). Participant experiences, although primarily positive, included instances of passive, unintentional discrimination; and there were internal and external pressures to be diversity experts and positive representatives of their group. Participants reported positively impacting colleagues’ cultural competency and offering a different presence within clinical settings. Suggestions for increasing diversity and research recommendations are given.

KEY WORDS:

genetic counselor diversity ethnicity gender recruitment retention training