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Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering

ISSN Print: 1072-8325
ISSN Online: 1940-431X

Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering

DOI: 10.1615/JWomenMinorScienEng.2015011275
pages 141-157

STARTING AT THE CROSSROADS: INTERSECTIONAL APPROACHES TO INSTITUTIONALLY SUPPORTING UNDERREPRESENTED MINORITY WOMEN STEM FACULTY

Mary A. Armstrong
English and Women's & Gender Studies, Lafayette College, Easton, Pennsylvania 18042
Jasna Jovanovic
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, San Luis Obispo, California 93407

ABSTRACT

In this paper we investigate the opportunities and challenges that emerge from an intersectional approach to achieving equity through institutional change, focusing particularly on the persistent lag faced by underrepresented minority (URM) women in U.S. academic science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Our specific goals in this paper are twofold: (1) to contribute to current theoretical models and research on enabling URM women in academic STEM fields, and (2) to advance broader current discussions concerning how intersectional approaches might be applied to shape institutional transformation. In order to do this, we first explore the historical and context-specific issues that illustrate how the relative lack of progress made by URM women faculty in STEM is at least partially driven by institutional structures that cannot fully address the experiences of persons with multiple subordinated identities. We then employ current literature on intersectionality and organizational change to theorize four ways that intersectional approaches might specifically help shape more successful institutional interventions. By offering some possibilities presented by an intersectional approach to institutional transformation, we suggest helpful starting points for mobilizing intersectionality in the service of structurally supporting the advancement and success of URM women in STEM.