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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.2014007345
pages 1-26

INTERSECTIONALITY AS A FRAMEWORK FOR UNDERSTANDING DIVERSE YOUNG WOMEN'S COMMITMENT TO ENGINEERING

Monica J. Bruning
University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455, USA
Jill Bystydzienski
Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio 43210, USA
Margaret Eisenhart
School of Education, UCB 249, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309-0249

ABSTRACT

Women and members of U.S. minority groups continue to be seriously underrepresented in engineering. In the literature on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) diversity, women and minorities typically are treated as distinct groups. However, this approach is challenged by nearly two decades of scholarship on "intersectionality", i.e., the idea that social categories and markers of difference and identity−such as gender, race, ethnicity, and class−never operate independently of each other. In this paper, we discuss the cases of three high school women, who demonstrated varied forms of commitment to engineering as they participated in a three-year, National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded project, Female Recruits Explore Engineering (FREE). We introduce the young women, describe salient aspects of their career exploration experiences during high school, and apply an intersectional framework to their cases. The analysis illuminates how influential social factors and identity markers intertwine to affect the girls' commitment to the academic and career choice of engineering. We demonstrate how the interconnections of gender, race, ethnicity, and socio-economic factors influence perceptions and decisions about whether to pursue engineering in college.