Rethinking the Intersectionality of Race, Gender and Class Identity: Educating Underrepresented Minority Women for Elite Careers in Science, Technology, Math and Engineering
Headworth, Spencer, Ronit Dinovitzer, Robert Nelson & David Wilkins (eds). Diversity in Practice. New York: Cambridge University Press, Forthcoming
34 Pages Posted: 1 May 2015
Date Written: April 29, 2015
Engineering remains the most sex and racially segregated profession in the United States. Research on underrepresented minority women in engineering, and scientific fields more generally shows that, while marginalized and stereotyped, many leverage their “doublebind” identity from two underrepresented groups to empower themselves to construct networks that provide support to persist in these fields. Building on the “double-bind” of gender and race identity, I argue that intersectional identity includes race, gender, and class, or a triple-bind, that, together, shapes the experiences, commitments, and persistence of underrepresented minority women in engineering and science-based careers. This article, which draws from a qualitative, longitudinal study, follows a group of minority women at elite institutions from the beginning of their college education who plan to study engineering; the majority stay the course, graduating with plans to enter the labor market or continue their education in engineering or a science field. I explore the strategies deployed by this highly selective group of minority women to follow a passion for science and math to realize their professional aspirations. The findings show that class identity matters: Underrepresented minority women from upper middle class backgrounds enjoy the luxury of bracketing the “bind” of class identity and, also, cultural capital to negotiate the “double-bind” of racism and sexism. The findings reported here, while exploratory, suggest the need to factor class identity into analyses of underrepresented minority women (and men) in engineering and science fields, and the professions more generally.
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