The Act of Negotiating Icky Aspects and Minority Ambitions to Pursue Post-Secondary STEM

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Disability and Equity in Education
Higher Education
Science and Mathematics Education
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The STEM pipeline is viewed as a universal metaphor representing the “path from elementary school to a STEM career” (Hill, Corbett, & Rose, 2010, p. 17). In the last few years, initiatives focused on strengthening the STEM pipeline have expanded in scale and emphases; from broadening the STEM pipeline to diversifying. In spite of multi-pronged efforts on the behalf of various entities, lower rates of participation in the STEM pipeline continue to prevail among individuals from ethnic, racial, and socio-economic groups; especially in physical sciences and engineering (Jacobs & Simpkins, 2005; Kahle, 2004; National Science Foundation, 2013; President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, 2010, 2012; Rothwell, 2014). Students at the intersectionality of two or more variables of underrepresentation are exponentially disadvantaged within the STEM pipeline (NCES, 2009; Sadler, et al., 2012). If we are to craft effective ways of diversifying the STEM pipeline in the US, we have to start by first exploring socio-cultural variables vis-a´-vis the proportional representation of all segments of the US population (Hill, Corbett, & Rose, 2010; McDermot & Mack, 2014). Harris-Perry (2013) discusses women of color at the intersection of race and gender as they craft their progress in juxtaposition with stereotypes as well as subtle and actual prejudice. Historically, programs created to serve women have primarily benefitted White women and programs designed to serve minorities have mainly served minority men (Ong et al., 2011). And although, female students’ participation is increasing in life and health sciences; their involvement in physical sciences, engineering, and mathematics continues to be at or near historic lows (Hill, Corbett, & Rose, 2010; Rankins, Rankins & Inniss, 2014; Rothwell, 2014). Within the above context, this study explores the journeys and issues of concern/ambiguity of minority female students through last two years of high school into matriculation in postsecondary STEM degrees/majors. The students are enrolled in two high schools located in a starkly under resourced area. The study hypothesizes that the challenges experienced by the female students do not completely dissipate, rather, over time, the students learn to identify adaptive ways to be successful as they make use of available support and guidance.

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