Thriving Or Simply Surviving? an Examination of Black Women in STEM at a PWI
Black women majoring in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields at predominantly White institutions (PWIs) experience a number of emotions as they navigate spaces and seek their identity. Black women experience greater challenges when striving for their sense of belonging while at PWIs than at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) (Shavers & Moore, 2014). Precollege factors such as the middle school experience (King & Pringle, 2019), the high school experience (McGee & Bentley, 2017), family (Hannon, Woodside, Pollard, & Roman, 2016), and religion (Patton & McClure, 2009) contribute to Black women’s mentality and overall sense of belonging. Subsequently, the campus climate, peers, and faculty influence the level of engagement and adjustment, ultimately aiding in students’ persistence or causing them to mask their identities and identify alternative ways to cope. Invoked by Critical Race Feminist, the Anti-Deficit Achievement Framework was utilized to explore the experiences of this group of students. Through semi-structured interviews of twenty-three Black female undergraduate STEM students, experiences that contribute to success and hinder progress were examined. The themes that emerged from this qualitative study were decision to pursue a STEM major, method to thrive, big picture mentality, and simply surviving. Salient findings include the importance of social interactions both inside and outside of the classroom with peers, faculty, and advisors to cultivate belonging. This study will promote efforts to improve outcomes of the whole Black female student through consideration of influences on STEM persistence rates.