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Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering
SJR: 0.468 SNIP: 0.671 CiteScore™: 1.65

ISSN Imprimer: 1072-8325
ISSN En ligne: 1940-431X

Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering

DOI: 10.1615/JWomenMinorScienEng.v6.i4.10
30 pages

EXPECTING THE UNEXPECTED: A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN WOMEN'S EXPERIENCES IN SCIENCE DURING THE HIGH SCHOOL YEARS

Sandra L. Hanson
Department of Sociology, The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC 20064
Elizabeth Palmer Johnson
Catholic University, Washington, DC 20064

RÉSUMÉ

Data from the National Educational Longitudinal Study (NELS) for the years 1988 to 1992 are used to explore the science experiences of young African-American women during the high school years. The comparison groups we use in trying to understand these experiences involve White women (for a race contrast) and African-American men (for a gender contrast). Within the context of a critical feminist perspective, it is argued that gender is constructed in a different way in White and African-American communities. Instead of expecting a disadvantage for young African-American women because of their gender and minority statuses, it is suggested that unique gender ideologies and work-family arrangements in the African-American community give these young women the resources and agency that allow them to compete with their White female counterparts and their African-American male counterparts in the science domain. Results from our analyses of the NELS data confirm these expectations. We find that on a majority of science measures, African-American women do as well as—and sometimes better than—White women and African-American men. For example, there are no differences between African-American women and men on attitudes toward science. And when compared with White women, African-American women tend to have more positive attitudes. When disadvantages appear for these young African-American women, they are more likely to be race effects then gender effects. The minimal gender effects in the science experiences of young African-Americans is in contrast to the more frequent male advantage in the White sample. A careful examination of family and individual resources shows that African-American families compensate for disadvantages on some resources (e.g., family socioeconomic status) by providing young women with an excess of other resources (e.g., unique gender ideologies, work expectations, and maternal expectations and involvement). And, unlike White parents, they sometimes provide more of these resources to their daughters than to their sons. Results do not support the popular notion that because minorities and women do less well in science African-American women will be especially disadvantaged in science. Implications of these findings are discussed.