Journal of Genetic Counseling

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 53–69 | Cite as

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

  • K. Cheri Schoonveld
  • Patricia McCarthy VeachEmail author
  • Bonnie S. LeRoy
Original Research

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.


genetic counselor diversity ethnicity gender recruitment retention training 



This study was completed in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the first author’s Master of Science degree from the University of Minnesota. We would like to acknowledge and thank the interviewees who contributed their time and thoughts to this important topic.


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Copyright information

© National Society of Genetic Counselars, Inc. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. Cheri Schoonveld
    • 1
  • Patricia McCarthy Veach
    • 2
    Email author
  • Bonnie S. LeRoy
    • 3
  1. 1.Maternal Fetal Medicine CenterFairview Health ServicesMinneapolisUSA
  2. 2.Department of Educational PsychologyUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA
  3. 3.Department of Genetics, Cell Biology, and DevelopmentInstitute of Human Genetics, University of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA

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