Understanding the Science Experiences of Successful Women of Color: Science Identity as an Analytic Lens

January 1st, 2007 | RESEARCH

In this study, we develop a model of science identity to make sense of the science experiences of 15 successful women of color over the course of their undergraduate and graduate studies in science and into science-related careers. In our view, science identity accounts both for how women make meaning of science experiences and how society structures possible meanings. Primary data included ethnographic interviews during students‘ undergraduate careers, follow-up interviews 6 years later, and ongoing member-checking. Our results highlight the importance of recognition by others for women in the three science identity trajectories: research scientist; altruistic scientist; and disrupted scientist. The women with research scientist identities were passionate about science and recognized themselves and were recognized by science faculty as science people. The women with altruistic scientist identities regarded science as a vehicle for altruism and created innovative meanings of ―science,‖ ―recognition by others,‖ and ―woman of color in science.‖ The women with disrupted scientist identities sought, but did not often receive, recognition by meaningful scientific others. Although they were ultimately successful, their trajectories were more difficult because, in part, their bids for recognition were disrupted by the interaction with gendered, ethnic, and racial factors. This study clarifies theoretical conceptions of science identity, promotes a rethinking of recruitment and retention efforts, and illuminates various ways women of color experience, make meaning of, and negotiate the culture of science.


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Team Members

Heidi Carlone, Author, University of North Carolina, Greensboro
Angela Johnson, Author, St. Mary's College of Maryland


Publication: Journal of Research in Science Teaching
Volume: 44
Number: 8
Page(s): 1187

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Audience: Educators | Teachers | Museum | ISE Professionals | Scientists
Discipline: Education and learning science | General STEM
Resource Type: Peer-reviewed article | Research Products
Environment Type: Higher Education Programs | Informal | Formal Connections