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Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering
SJR: 0.468 SNIP: 0.905 CiteScore™: 1.65

ISSN Imprimir: 1072-8325
ISSN En Línea: 1940-431X

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Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering

DOI: 10.1615/JWomenMinorScienEng.2014008198
pages 171-195

AGENCY OF WOMEN OF COLOR IN PHYSICS AND ASTRONOMY: STRATEGIES FOR PERSISTENCE AND SUCCESS

Lily T. Ko
TERC, 2067 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02140-9998, USA
Rachel R. Kachchaf
TERC, 2067 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02140-9998, USA
Apriel K. Hodari
Eureka Scientific, Inc., 2452 Delmer Street, Suite 100, Oakland, California 94602-3017, USA
Maria Ong
TERC, 2067 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02140-9998, USA

SINOPSIS

Women of color are widely considered to be valuable sources of talent to fill U.S. science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) occupations. However, they are continually underrepresented in advanced degree attainment and leadership positions relative to their male and White female counterparts. To explore factors of persistence and success, the NSF-funded Beyond the Double Bind study elicited life stories from 22 women of color with bachelor's and advanced degrees in physics or astronomy, two of the most exclusive STEM fields. The study found that these women commonly experienced social isolation, yet they were not passive victims of their departmental cultures. To persist in science, they employed multiple forms of agency, including eight navigational strategies: seeking an environment that enabled success, circumventing unsupportive advisors, combating isolation using peer networks, consciously demonstrating abilities to counteract doubt, finding safe spaces for their whole selves, getting out to stay in STEM, remembering their passion for science, and engaging in activism. These findings point to specific barriers that could have been remedied by institutional change so that the large amount of time and energy minority women invested in strategies for persistence could have been spent doing science. Since relying on women of color to adjust their actions and behaviors to survive existing STEM climates is not a long-term solution, the article concludes with recommendations for two groups: women of color who seek to succeed in STEM fields, and institutions of higher education and employers dedicated to retaining women of color and broadening participation in STEM.


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