Amanda Henry, a STEM professional, gives 5 steps on navigating ‘intersectionality’ for career success

STEM-gap-intersectionality My own “eureka” moment about the challenges I face as both a woman and a minority in the STEM fields did not come until I began to read more about women in other industries.

UCLA law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term “intersectionality” in 1989 to describe how various forms of oppression, domination, or discrimination are interconnected and cannot be analyzed separately. This idea perfectly sums up my own experiences in pursuing a STEM education and career.

Research suggests that the concept of intersectionality can help us reframe the way we think about women and ethnic minorities in STEM fields. For instance, Moin Syed and Eileen Zurbriggen made the following points in their presentation, “Women and Ethnic Minorities in STEM: An Intersectional Analysis,” at the IDEA Diversity Through Disciplines Symposium: (1) gender stereotypes are often referenced in terms of white male and white female, and (2) ethnic/racial stereotypes often come from the male perspective.

Syed and Zurbriggen’s presentation:

 

According to Syed and Zurbriggen, race/ethnicity and gender are often treated as distinct challenges, when in reality, being a woman of color in STEM presents its own unique challenges that cannot be understood in terms of just being black, or female. The challenges and opportunities that women and minorities encounter in the STEM fields are multifaceted and cannot be easily classified—and educators, practitioners, and other STEM professionals must be willing to examine these issues through a wider lens.

As a woman of color in STEM, here’s my 5 pieces of advice for girls and young women interested in a STEM-related field:

(Next page: Understanding ‘intersectionality’ can lead to more successful career planning)


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