Abstract

Traditionally underserved racial/ethnic groups such as African Americans, Latinos/Latinas, and Native Americans are needed to diversify the next generation of engineers, scientists, and STEM educators. Women of color (WOC), in particular, represent tremendous untapped human capital that could provide a much-needed diversity of perspective essential to sustain technological advantages and to promote a positive academic climate. Recently educators have questioned the STEM community commitment towards increasing the participation of WOC. Indeed, national reports of domestic students studying and completing STEM degrees show marginal improvement in broadening participation with a significant lag in engineering, despite the known benefits of diversity. Therefore, more must be done by the STEM community to attract and retain WOC. For students of color, campus climate issues around race, class, and gender shape their higher education learning environment. Research suggests hostile campus climates are associated with students of color leaving STEM fields before graduating. Such barriers can be more pronounced for WOC who often experience a "double bind" of race and gender marginalization when navigating the STEM culture. Therefore, it is important that educators understand experiences of WOC and what is needed to improve students' experiences in order to minimize the performance gap in key indicators (e.g., retention, achievement and persistence). We seek to address this STEM need through the guiding research question: "How does the double bind of race and gender impact the experience of women of color in engineering?" The data reported here is part of a larger, sequential mixed-methods study that is informed by the Womanist and intersectionality theoretical frameworks. For the first time, we introduce the Womanist Identity Attitude scale to engineering education research, which provides a unique way to understand gender and racial identity development of WOC along with the intersection of identities. Intersectionality provides a means to produce scholarship that investigates the connection between social identity dimensions and educational conditions. Social identity models that adhere to intersectionality concepts acknowledge that multiple oppressed identities have a multiplicative, not additive, impact. Although scholars have used intersectionality to understand the experiences of students of color in higher education, few engineering education studies apply an intersectionality framework, particularly for WOC. After a short pilot study, we anticipate the survey results will generate three outcomes. First, the survey results will show what intersecting identities most impact the experience of WOC in engineering, and the extent to which these may operate differently for women of different racial ethnic groups. Second, interview questions and potential themes will be created by grouping results into clusters of intersectionality types or exemplars of intersecting identities. Finally, we will generate strategies to overcome the challenge of the double bind for WOC in engineering by examining the context and scope of intersecting identities emphasized by participants in the survey. Overall, the results presented here will provide the foundation for a larger study that will lead to a deeper understanding of the challenges WOC face in the engineering culture and expose areas to improve inclusion efforts that target WOC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
Volume2017-June
StatePublished - Jun 24 2017
Event124th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Columbus, United States
Duration: Jun 25 2017Jun 28 2017

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Color
Students
Engineering education
Education
Engineers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)

Cite this

@article{d977a17e1788446e901381b37fd5595c,
title = "The double bind of race and gender: A look into the experiences of women of color in engineering",
abstract = "Traditionally underserved racial/ethnic groups such as African Americans, Latinos/Latinas, and Native Americans are needed to diversify the next generation of engineers, scientists, and STEM educators. Women of color (WOC), in particular, represent tremendous untapped human capital that could provide a much-needed diversity of perspective essential to sustain technological advantages and to promote a positive academic climate. Recently educators have questioned the STEM community commitment towards increasing the participation of WOC. Indeed, national reports of domestic students studying and completing STEM degrees show marginal improvement in broadening participation with a significant lag in engineering, despite the known benefits of diversity. Therefore, more must be done by the STEM community to attract and retain WOC. For students of color, campus climate issues around race, class, and gender shape their higher education learning environment. Research suggests hostile campus climates are associated with students of color leaving STEM fields before graduating. Such barriers can be more pronounced for WOC who often experience a {"}double bind{"} of race and gender marginalization when navigating the STEM culture. Therefore, it is important that educators understand experiences of WOC and what is needed to improve students' experiences in order to minimize the performance gap in key indicators (e.g., retention, achievement and persistence). We seek to address this STEM need through the guiding research question: {"}How does the double bind of race and gender impact the experience of women of color in engineering?{"} The data reported here is part of a larger, sequential mixed-methods study that is informed by the Womanist and intersectionality theoretical frameworks. For the first time, we introduce the Womanist Identity Attitude scale to engineering education research, which provides a unique way to understand gender and racial identity development of WOC along with the intersection of identities. Intersectionality provides a means to produce scholarship that investigates the connection between social identity dimensions and educational conditions. Social identity models that adhere to intersectionality concepts acknowledge that multiple oppressed identities have a multiplicative, not additive, impact. Although scholars have used intersectionality to understand the experiences of students of color in higher education, few engineering education studies apply an intersectionality framework, particularly for WOC. After a short pilot study, we anticipate the survey results will generate three outcomes. First, the survey results will show what intersecting identities most impact the experience of WOC in engineering, and the extent to which these may operate differently for women of different racial ethnic groups. Second, interview questions and potential themes will be created by grouping results into clusters of intersectionality types or exemplars of intersecting identities. Finally, we will generate strategies to overcome the challenge of the double bind for WOC in engineering by examining the context and scope of intersecting identities emphasized by participants in the survey. Overall, the results presented here will provide the foundation for a larger study that will lead to a deeper understanding of the challenges WOC face in the engineering culture and expose areas to improve inclusion efforts that target WOC.",
author = "Cross, {Kelly J} and Clancy, {Kathryn B H} and Ruby Mendenhall and Imoukhuede, {Princess U II} and Amos, {Jennifer R.}",
year = "2017",
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AU - Cross, Kelly J

AU - Clancy, Kathryn B H

AU - Mendenhall, Ruby

AU - Imoukhuede, Princess U II

AU - Amos, Jennifer R.

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N2 - Traditionally underserved racial/ethnic groups such as African Americans, Latinos/Latinas, and Native Americans are needed to diversify the next generation of engineers, scientists, and STEM educators. Women of color (WOC), in particular, represent tremendous untapped human capital that could provide a much-needed diversity of perspective essential to sustain technological advantages and to promote a positive academic climate. Recently educators have questioned the STEM community commitment towards increasing the participation of WOC. Indeed, national reports of domestic students studying and completing STEM degrees show marginal improvement in broadening participation with a significant lag in engineering, despite the known benefits of diversity. Therefore, more must be done by the STEM community to attract and retain WOC. For students of color, campus climate issues around race, class, and gender shape their higher education learning environment. Research suggests hostile campus climates are associated with students of color leaving STEM fields before graduating. Such barriers can be more pronounced for WOC who often experience a "double bind" of race and gender marginalization when navigating the STEM culture. Therefore, it is important that educators understand experiences of WOC and what is needed to improve students' experiences in order to minimize the performance gap in key indicators (e.g., retention, achievement and persistence). We seek to address this STEM need through the guiding research question: "How does the double bind of race and gender impact the experience of women of color in engineering?" The data reported here is part of a larger, sequential mixed-methods study that is informed by the Womanist and intersectionality theoretical frameworks. For the first time, we introduce the Womanist Identity Attitude scale to engineering education research, which provides a unique way to understand gender and racial identity development of WOC along with the intersection of identities. Intersectionality provides a means to produce scholarship that investigates the connection between social identity dimensions and educational conditions. Social identity models that adhere to intersectionality concepts acknowledge that multiple oppressed identities have a multiplicative, not additive, impact. Although scholars have used intersectionality to understand the experiences of students of color in higher education, few engineering education studies apply an intersectionality framework, particularly for WOC. After a short pilot study, we anticipate the survey results will generate three outcomes. First, the survey results will show what intersecting identities most impact the experience of WOC in engineering, and the extent to which these may operate differently for women of different racial ethnic groups. Second, interview questions and potential themes will be created by grouping results into clusters of intersectionality types or exemplars of intersecting identities. Finally, we will generate strategies to overcome the challenge of the double bind for WOC in engineering by examining the context and scope of intersecting identities emphasized by participants in the survey. Overall, the results presented here will provide the foundation for a larger study that will lead to a deeper understanding of the challenges WOC face in the engineering culture and expose areas to improve inclusion efforts that target WOC.

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