Las mujeres in the STEM pipeline : how Latina college students who persist in STEM majors develop and sustain their science identities



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Over the past decade, an extensive amount of scholarship and media attention have been devoted to understanding the unique educational experiences and challenges of STEM students, however, few studies have explored the intersection of race/ethnicity and gender, especially in terms of science identity development. Given the significant growth of the Latina/o community, understanding Latina STEM college experiences, specifically, will be critical to enhancing educational experiences for the Latina/o STEM community. Existing literature suggests that developing a strong science identity during college may improve persistence for women of color in STEM. This research study uses qualitative methods to gain an in-depth understanding of how Latina college students at a public tier-one, predominantly white, research university make develop and meaning of and develop their science identities. The study found that Latinas develop their STEM identities primarily around aspects of building competence, recognition from self and outside sources, and performance of STEM behaviors. Their STEM identity development was influenced in terms of intersectionality, primarily by their gender and racial identities. This study is uniquely positioned to advance new knowledge regarding Latina students’ persistence in STEM fields, which may inform local, state, and federal STEM policies.