Empirical Studies on Women of Color in STEM Symposium

With support from the National Science Foundation*, the American Chemical Society (ACS) organized a symposium, Empirical Studies on Women of Color in STEM, at the 242nd ACS National Meeting in Denver. Learn more about ACS Women Chemists of Color initiatives.

Symposium Program

Monday, August 29, 2011 — 8:25 am–11:45 am
Colorado Convention Center, Room 111 — Denver, CO

Sponsored by PROF; Cosponsored by CMA and WCC
Organizers: Gloria Thomas and Linette Watkins

  • Welcome & Introductory Remarks
  • Seemingly fair practices which disadvantage women of color in science. Angela Johnson, St. Mary’s College of Maryland
    Abstract: Black, Latina and American Indian women are under-represented in the sciences; in 2001, they made up less than two percent of employed Ph.D. scientists. In this talk, I will present NSF statistics about the under-representation of women of color in science, focusing particularly on chemistry. I will then explore how the culture of science is closely aligned with the cultural skills of white middle class men. Using data from an ethnographic study of nineteen women science majors of color at a predominantly white Research I university, I will discuss some of the teaching practices and cultural values which, despite the stated intentions of some science professors to retain women students of color, served to benefit white students and male students at the expense of the women in this study. I will end with a discussion of some of the approaches used by the women in my study to persist in science, and what college professors and science professionals can do to better support women of color to survive this culture as well as to dismantle unintended barriers in their own settings.
  • Where are the women of color? Research, theory and practice on undergraduate women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Dawn Johnson, Syracuse University
    Abstract: Research, policy and practice addressing women's underrepresentation in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) often situate women as a homogenous group without regard to any racial/ethnic group differences. This approach fails to distinguish the experiences of women of color that contribute to their participation in scientific fields. Women of color have lower rates of persistence and bachelor degree attainment in STEM fields, and thus have lower representation among graduate students and faculty in these disciplines. Racial discrimination, exclusion and isolation among peers, endurance of stereotypes, and lack of support from faculty are among the challenges faced by women of color. As educational initiatives continue toward developing and maintaining a diverse scientific and technical workforce in the United States, accounting for the needs of women of color is vital, given their increasing enrollment in postsecondary education. This presentation discusses research on undergraduate women of color in STEM, useful theoretical frameworks for understanding their experiences, and suggestions for educational practice that can support the needs of women of color.
  • Professional society data: Collecting and reporting on women of color faculty in STEM. Rachel Ivie, American Institute of Physics, and Lisa Frehill, National Research Council
    Abstract: In 2001, NSF implemented the ADVANCE: Institutional Transformation program in order to address women's general underrepresentation among STEM faculty. ADVANCE has been a data-driven effort, with all funded institutions responsible for collecting and analyzing institutional data on 12 indicators of women's success within academia. Initially, though, few efforts were focused on the issues for women of color. Since ADVANCE programs were largely at universities, the dramatically small numbers of women of color at each university made this category virtually invisible. Professional societies span universities and provide means of collaborative effort within disciplines. We suggest that these societies can provide data about women faculty of color to inform change and provide benchmarking data for programmatic efforts. I will report on the availability of data about women of color faculty members from 57 STEM professional societies. Very few societies collect data on the race and sex of faculty members combined, and, among those who do, few have published these data. Professional societies need more information about how their data can benefit efforts to expand underrepresented groups' participation in the professoriate.
  • Inside the double bind: A synthesis of empirical research on women of color in science, engineering, technology, and mathematics. Lorelle Espinosa, Institute for Higher Education Policy
    Abstract: Dr. Lorelle Espinosa will present an overview of nearly 40 years of scholarship on the postsecondary educational and career experiences of women of color in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Espinosa, currently Director of Policy and Strategic Initiatives at the Institute for Higher Education Policy, served as Senior Researcher on an NSF-sponsored study (co-led by Maria Ong and Gary Orfield) that created a synthesis of 116 pieces of empirical research. The synthesis offers a complex portrait of the myriad factors that influence the retention, persistence, and achievement of women of color in STEM at the undergraduate, graduate, and career levels. The researchers argue that current underrepresentation of women of color in STEM fields represents an underutilization of our nation's human capital and raises concerns of equity in U.S. education and employment. Dr. Espinosa will discuss the policy implications of the findings and highlight gaps in the literature where further research is needed.
  • Panel Discussion & Concluding Remarks


Speaker Biographies

Angela Johnson
Associate Professor, Educational Studies, St. Mary’s College of Maryland

Angela Johnson is an Associate Professor of Educational Studies. She is a former high school physics teacher and long-time collective member of off our backs, the radical feminist newsjournal. She graduated in physics from Bryn Mawr College and earned her doctorate in the social foundations of education from the University of Colorado at Boulder, with an emphasis in anthropology. She teaches courses in educational equity, assessment, educational policy, and research methods. She has authored and co-authored numerous articles and book chapters on the experiences of women of color in predominantly White science contexts and on other issues involving equity and excellence in science and science education.

Dawn Johnson
Assistant Professor, Higher Education, Syracuse University

Dr. Dawn Johnson is an Assistant Professor of Higher Education at Syracuse University. Her research examines the racial climate on campus and in the classroom for students of color in STEM majors, with a special interest in the experiences of women of color. She formerly directed recruitment and retention programs for under-represented students of color at a science and engineering university. Dr. Johnson teaches in the areas of student affairs administration, college student identity development, and diversity issues in U.S. higher education. She received her doctorate in Counseling and Personnel Services from the University of Maryland.

Rachel Ivie
Assistant Director, Statistical Research center, American Institute of Physics

Rachel Ivie is Assistant Director of the Statistical Research Center (SRC) at the American Institute of Physics. She received her Ph.D. in sociology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she specialized in research methods, statistics, gender, and the life course. Before coming to the SRC, Dr. Ivie was a professor of sociology and taught various courses to undergraduates, including the sociology of gender and research methods. Over the past ten years at SRC, she has specialized in studies of the workforce and diversity in physics. Dr. Ivie has been involved in several U.S. and international efforts to increase women’s presence in physics. Dr. Ivie provides social science expertise in the collection, analysis, and reporting of data—both quantitative and qualitative—about women and minorities in the fields of physics and astronomy.

Lorelle L. Espinosa
Director, Policy and Strategic Initiatives, Institute for Higher Education Policy

Lorelle L. Espinosa, Ph.D., is the director of policy and strategic initiatives at the Institute for Higher Education Policy. Espinosa establishes and manages collaborative external partnerships and initiatives to meet key organizational objectives for advancing college access and success for all students, with particular attention paid to underrepresented groups at the pre-college and college levels. Included in this directive is her management of the Pathways to College Network and Coalition for College Completion.

An expert on various higher education topics, Espinosa is well versed—as both a practitioner and researcher of higher education—on issues of postsecondary access and persistence of underrepresented groups. She has published on the transition and advancement of underrepresented minority students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) postsecondary education, with a current emphasis on women of color in STEM. Espinosa is a featured blogger for Diverse: Issues in Higher Education ("STEM Watch") where she writes about the national imperative of building and sustaining a diverse STEM pipeline.

Espinosa’s doctoral dissertation, Pipelines and Pathways: Women of Color in STEM Fields and the Experiences that Shape Their Persistence, was recently “Cited for Excellence” by the Association for the Study of Higher Education; work that is also featured in a special issue of the Harvard Educational Review on women of color in STEM. She serves on the advisory boards for the American Association for the Advancement of Science Access to and Diversity in STEM Fields: A Policy Initiative project, and the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities Minority Males in STEM initiative.

Espinosa holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in Education from the University of California, Los Angeles. She received her B.A. from the University of California, Davis and her A.A. from Santa Barbara City College. Prior to her graduate work and arrival at IHEP, Espinosa worked in the areas of student affairs and undergraduate education at the University of California, Davis, Stanford University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

*This material is based upon work supported, in part, by the National Science Foundation under Grant #1027608. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.