• "WE ARE FIGHTERS": EXPLORING HOW LATINAS USE VARIOUS FORMS OF CAPITAL AS THEY STRIVE FOR SUCCESS IN STEM

      Davis, James Earl, 1960-; Brandt, Carol B.; Cucchiara, Maia Bloomfield; Johnson, Jennifer M., 1970- (Temple University. Libraries, 2018)
      The underrepresentation of women of color in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) remains a critical issue. Uneven academic preparation and lack of interest have been cited as common factors associated with low participation and degree attainment rates among women of color in STEM; however, these factors do not adequately explain why women with academic achievement and interest comparable to their white, male peers pursue and attain STEM degrees at disproportionately low rates. Identity has been found to be a useful lens to understand why and how women of color pursue and attain STEM degrees and subsequent career goals. Viewing the challenges women of color face as a result of being in a "double bind"-both female and non-white -can enable scholars and practitioners alike to better understand how they navigate trajectories towards their career and other personal goals. Specifically, forms of capital that women of color access because of, and not in spite of, their identity have been found to provide means for women of color to successfully achieve their goals. This study uses ethnographic methods to explore the experiences of early-mid career Latina engineers and the forms of capital they have accessed along their trajectories through undergraduate education in engineering and in the early stages of their engineering-related careers. Findings reveal that Latinas draw upon multiple forms of science-related social and cultural capital to overcome obstacles related to being female and non-white in a male-dominated field in a U.S. context. The challenge associated with being a Latina is exacerbated in the workplace where "bro" culture is more pervasive than in college; however, an awareness of one's social identity, the "Americanness" of the gender/race gap in STEM, and a desire to make the field of engineering more welcoming for subsequent generations of women motivates study participants to persist. Specifically, women in this study draw strength from personal or inherited experience of struggle along their trajectories through engineering. They face challenges with an awareness that obstacles are part of any journey and have developed both an ability to transform obstacles into inspiration for working harder and an understanding that overcoming them is crucial both to repaying the debt of sacrifice of those who came before and paving the way for those who will come after. "Struggle" is thus a form of capital that women in my study acquired and is worthy of exploration as a distinct theoretical framework for persistence. Overall, findings from this study bear implications for individual supports and institutional transformation required to foster the success of Latinas in engineering as a distinct group as well as women of color in STEM broadly speaking.