Council on Anthropology and Education
Oral Presentation Session
In this paper, I explore how Latina professional engineers’ intersectional identity has shaped their careers in the context of their membership in a Hispanic-serving professional engineering organization in the Northeast U.S. Grounded in asset-based research that posits women of color in STEM utilize various forms of capital (Yosso, 2005) and structural supports (Ong, Smith, & Ko, 2017) as they author their identities in “chilly" STEM climates (Carlone & Johnson, 2007; Walton, Logel, Peach, Spencer & Zanna, 2015), I argue the importance of centering women of color's identification experiences in the discourse on STEM persistence. This paper draws upon observation, interview, and document data to provide both an emic and etic understanding (e.g. Lareau & Shultz, 1996) of various forms of capital Latinas access in the context of the engineering organization to which they belong as they strive to succeed in STEM. Data analysis reveals the general finding that Latinas’ self-awareness, fostered by organizational membership, acts as capital that empowers them to overcome potential barriers to their professional advancement. In particular, they apply their insight, or conocimiento (Anzaldúa & Keating, 2002), to frame experiences of racism and sexism as fuel for persistence. This finding implies the need to promote integrated identity formation in STEM in the educational spaces where STEM being and doing take place. Future research can scale up articulations of intersectional STEM identity found in this study to examine identification processes among Latinas and other women of color in STEM more broadly.