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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Interlocking Struggles, Interwoven Success: College and Career Pathways for Women of Color in STEM and Healthcare

  • Author(s): Cobian, Krystle
  • Advisor(s): Hurtado, Sylvia
  • et al.

With more women of color (WOC) aspiring to study science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and healthcare (STEMH), colleges and universities serve as a critical environment for preparing and supporting successful transitions from earning a STEMH degree through participation in the STEMH workforce. I use a three-article format to examine the college and career pathways of WOC STEMH graduates (2006-2010), including those who were in graduate study or gainfully employed in the STEMH workforce. All three studies center WOC experiences and intersectionality. The first article uses longitudinal data to examine high school, college, and post-baccalaureate attitudes, opinions, and experiences of 427 WOC STEMH bachelor’s degree holders to predict a three category outcome: whether a WOC entered a healthcare-related pathway, a STEM-specific pathway, or left STEMH. The second study aims to advance Quantitative Critical Methodology (QuantCrit) by using a mixed methods design to examine how race, class, gender, and sociohistorical context of the 2008 economic recession shaped career outcomes for STEMH bachelor’s degree holders who entered college in 2004. The third study involves interviews with seven Filipina American women working or attending graduate school in a STEMH field to show how sociohistorical context is key in capturing the full picture of how WOC in STEMH make career decisions. Together, these studies expand understandings of intersectionality as a theoretical lens to reveal individual and structural forms of oppression, advance QuantCrit methodology and the application of intersectionality in research methods, and provide new knowledge about the role of higher education institutions in facilitating or stalling WOC’s STEMH career pathways. Findings of the three studies have implications for academic leaders and recommend changes that can reduce attrition of WOC as they navigate college and career decisions.

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