Latina Women in STEM: How Race and Class Shape the Experiences of Undergraduate Women in STEM Majors at Arizona State University
Women and people of color are some of the most underrepresented groups in the STEM field (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). The purpose of this study was to uncover the barriers that undergraduate Hispanic women, as well as other women of color, face while pursuing an education in a STEM-related major at Arizona State University (ASU). In-depth interviews were conducted with 13 adult participants to dig deeper into the experiences of each woman and analyze how race and class overlap in each of the women's experiences. The concept of intersectionality was used to highlight various barriers such as perceptions of working versus middle-class students, the experience of being a first-generation college student, diversity campus-wide and in the classroom, effects of stereotyping, and impacts of mentorships. All women, no matter their gender, race, or socioeconomic status, faced struggles with stereotyping, marginalization, and isolation. Women in STEM majors at ASU performed better when provided with positive mentorships and grew aspirations to become a professional in the STEM field when encouraged and guided by someone who helped them build their scientific identities. Working-class women suffered from severe stress related to finances, family support, employment, and stereotyping. Reforming the culture of STEM fields in higher education will allow women to achieve success, further build their scientific identities, and increase the rate of women graduating with STEM degrees.