Beyond gender: Taking a multi -status approach to understanding students' positioning in STEM

Ashima Singh, University of Rhode Island


Although data indicate that White women and persons of color are both vulnerable to selective attrition in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) pipeline, gender has been the primary focus of most research in that area. This implies that: (1) intersections of multiple marginalization (e.g. women of color) within STEM is understudied, and (2) there is a need for a multifaceted understanding (encompassing perceptual, experiential, motivational and social characteristics) of students' perceptions of, and participation in, the STEM disciplines. In this research project, a multi-status, cross-disciplinary survey methodology was used to identify the ways in which undergraduate students perceived, experienced, and chose STEM. ^ It was found that the lack of diversity in STEM has distinct racialized and gendered overtones that impact both enrollment and attrition. Multiple statuses, when contextualized with each other and with disciplinary appropriateness, played a role in students' attraction to and retention within STEM. Additionally, circles of social context—to which parents, teachers, and peers contributed—created divergent academic experiences for women and men, students of color and Whites, ultimately influencing educational and career choices that steered students either towards or away from STEM. ^ Although some status-related hypotheses were not supported in this research, this lack of significance pointed to a vulnerability within STEM: the lack of diversity among students. Small samples of both students of color and female students who were far outnumbered by Whites and males among STEM students may have led to statistic drowning of any status-related differences between those groups. Further study with a larger and more diverse sample is necessary to identify how multiple statuses affect students' disciplinary climate and motivational experiences. ^

Subject Area

Psychology, Behavioral|Women's Studies|Education, Social Sciences|Education, Higher

Recommended Citation

Ashima Singh, "Beyond gender: Taking a multi -status approach to understanding students' positioning in STEM" (2008). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI3328730.