Academic journal article Journal of STEM Education : Innovations and Research

Personal and Structural Elements of Support for African American Female Engineers

Academic journal article Journal of STEM Education : Innovations and Research

Personal and Structural Elements of Support for African American Female Engineers

Article excerpt

Research in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, com- monly referred to as STEM, is a top priority for organizations across the board. This is because the STEM fields traditionally set the benchmarks for assessing and comparing intellectual capital per country, and this focus trickles down to corporations, institutions, and education systems alike (Science and Engineer- ing Indicators, 2006). Characteristically, the intellectual capital produced by a country is connected to the innovation and advancements made in STEM (Jackson, 2010; National Academy of Sciences, 2007; NACME, 2008; Science and Engineering Indicators, 2006). Therefore, the US production and contribu- tion, as a country, in these fields, is a key measurement of progress, innova- tion and leadership. Historically, the US leads the race in STEM research and advancements (National Academy of Sciences, 2007; Science and Engineering Indicators, 2006). However, the shrinking talent pool is often noted as one of the challenges, which threaten the US stance as a global leader in STEM (National Academy of Sciences, 2007; NACME, 2008; Science and Engineering Indicators, 2006).

The dialogue surrounding the talent pool is typically centered on recruit- ment and retention in the K-12 and higher education domains and the associ- ated challenges (Farrell, 2002; National Academy of Sciences, 2007). One of the primary factors impacting the STEM pipeline is the lack of students inter- ested in mathematics and science courses at the K-12 education levels, which negatively impacts the number of students majoring in STEM disciplines at the collegiate level and pursuing STEM careers (NACME, 2008; Science and Engineering Indicators, 2006). Additionally, the Gathering Storm Report, published by the National Academy of Sciences (2007), noted the following factors as challenges for the talent pool:

K-12 student preparation in science and mathematics, limited under- graduate interest in science and engineering majors, significant student attrition among science and engineering undergraduate and graduate students, and science and engineering education that in some instances inadequately prepares students to work outside universities. (p. 121)

Although the recruitment and retention issues are significant topics for the STEM field, there is a need to address the factors that contribute to success for students in STEM in order to better learn from the students who were retained by the field. Addressing the systems of support are especially crucial for un- derrepresented populations-women and people of color-as those are the groups often targeted, yet who remain a minority in the STEM professions.

The preponderance of literature and research addressing underrepre- sented populations (American Indian/Alaska Natives, Blacks, Hispanics, and Pacific Islanders) in STEM issues is focused on the K-12 and collegiate pipe- line (Gill, Sharp, Mills, & Franzway, 2008; Maton & Hrabowski, 2004; Moore, 2006; National Academy of Sciences, 2007; Russell, 2005; and Vogt, Hocevar, & Hagedorn, 2007). There is little information regarding those who manage to successfully navigate the K-12 pipeline and collegiate domains and find success in professional workplace organizations. Although there is a focus on minorities in STEM, there is a dearth of research and literature examining the career experiences of African American female engineers. Therefore, the purpose of the overall study was to examine the career experiences of African American female engineers utilizing a holistic perspective, meaning that fac- tors addressing the lifespan were examined. The focus of this study, which is part of the larger study, is to understand the personal and structural factors, which contributed to their support system. The research question guiding the study was: what, if any, were the systems of support impacting the career ex- periences of African American female engineers?

To examine the career experiences of the African American women en- gineers, Cook, Heppner and O'Brien's (2005) adaptation of Bronfenbrenner's (1977) ecological model was used as the theoretical framework for the study. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.