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Sister Scientist Outsider: Social Network Analysis of Women of Color STEM Majors in The Community College


In feminist standpoint theory (FST), the marginal social status of women provides them a nuanced perspective; this particular standpoint of reality holds potential in producing knowledge that challenges and goes beyond the dominant point of view. Since it characterizes “relations between the production of knowledge and practices of power” (Harding, 2004), FST holds promise in magnifying the experience, power struggle, and knowledge production of women of color pursuing STEM majors and careers. This dissertation studies the networks that influence the scientific thinking of women of color STEM majors at Marvel Community College (MCC), a pseudonymized community college that is considered as a Hispanic-Serving Institution in Los Angeles, California. I used a mixed methods approach of qualitative questionnaire and social network analysis to demonstrate how women of color students’ marginalized locations affect their knowledge production as scientists.

The questionnaire asked 35 participants about influences to five processes of scientific thinking: scientific observation, scientific explanation, scientific critique, scientific justification, and legitimization of scientific knowledge. Results show that family members influence the scientific thinking of participants the most with 150 out of 450 nominations, regardless of highest level of education completed (high school or lower level). Disaggregated gender data reveals that female relatives have the most nominations. Meanwhile, disaggregated racial and ethnic data show that Latinx relatives are the most nominated racial/ethnic group.

Female relatives represent a substantial quantum of family nominations. The matriarchal nature of the family nominees implies a gendered wisdom being passed down from generation to generation. This wisdom could be privy to matriarchs, with their unique standpoint as mothers, women of color (particularly, Latina), and oftentimes, immigrants in American society, where they traverse along the boundaries of race, class, and gender. These matriarchs pass along the privy knowledge on navigating the home and the world with their daughters--the participants who translate these valuable home lessons into the guiding lights of their evolving scientific minds. The standpoint of women of color community college STEM majors ought to be explored further, especially with the potential of community wealth capital in shaping scientific thinking, and, hence, knowledge production in STEM fields.

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