Harvard Educational Review
  1. Summer 2011 Issue »

    Inside the Double Bind

    A Synthesis of Empirical Research on Undergraduate and Graduate Women of Color in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics

    Maria Ong, Carol Wright, Lorelle L. Espinosa, and Gary Orfield
    In this article, Maria Ong, Carol Wright, Lorelle Espinosa, and Gary Orfield review nearly forty years of scholarship on the postsecondary educational experiences of women of color in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Their synthesis of 116 works of scholarship provides insight into the factors that influence the retention, persistence, and achievement of women of color in STEM fields. They argue that the current underrepresentation of women of color in STEM fields represents an unconscionable underutilization of our nation’s human capital and raises concerns of equity in the U.S. educational and employment systems. They refute the pervasive myth that underrepresented minority women are less interested in pursuing STEM fields and then present a complex portrait of the myriad factors that influence the undergraduate and graduate experiences of women of color in STEM fields. Finally, the authors discuss the policy implications of their findings and highlight gaps in the literature where further research is needed, providing a knowledge base for educators, policy makers, and researchers to continue the mission of advancing the status of women of color in STEM.

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    Maria (Mia) Ong is a project leader and evaluator in the Education Research Collaborative at TERC, a science and mathematics education research and development nonprofit in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She conducts qualitative research focusing on women of color in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in higher education and careers. Her work has appeared in journals such as Social Problems and Interactions Across Physics and Education. She also directs Project SEED (Science and Engineering Equity and Diversity), a social justice collaborative affiliated with The Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA, and, since 2008, she has served as a member of the Committee on Equal Opportunities in Science and Engineering, a congressionally mandated advisory committee to the National Science Foundation.

    Carol Wright holds a BA from Lafayette College, an MA from Teachers College, Columbia University, and a PhD in educational policy studies from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. As a postdoctoral fellow at TERC, a not-for-profit education research organization in Cambridge, Massachusetts, her scholarly interests focused on the schooling of African American students in urban and suburban educational environments. At TERC, she also worked on “Inside the Double Bind,” an NSF-funded project that synthesized extant research about women of color in STEM fields and identified the most promising practices to broaden participation of women of color on STEM faculties. Currently, she is a research associate for the PSC (AFT Local 2334) leading the study on the City University of New York and race, which will document existing practices in recruiting, hiring, retaining, mentoring, and promoting faculty and professional staff while addressing barriers to increase diversity and inclusiveness.

    Lorelle L. Espinosa, is the director of policy and strategic initiatives at the Institute for Higher Education Policy in Washington, DC. Her work on the intersection of gender and race/ethnicity in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) higher education was first published in the Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering in 2008. Since that time, she has become a regular contributor to professional journals and writes a widely read blog on the imperative of diverse perspectives in STEM education. Her dissertation on the persistence of women of color in STEM majors was cited for excellence by the Association for the Study of Higher Education in 2010.

    Gary Orfield is a professor of education, law, political science, and urban planning at UCLA and is interested in the study of civil rights, education policy, urban policy, and minority opportunity. He was cofounder and director of the Harvard Civil Rights Project and is now codirector of the UCLA Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles. Orfield’s central interest has been the development and implementation of social policy, with a central focus on the impact of policy on equal opportunity for success in American society. His recent works include six coedited books since 2004 and numerous articles and reports. In addition to his scholarly work, Orfield has been involved in the development of governmental policy and served as an expert witness in several dozen court cases related to his research, including the University of Michigan Supreme Court case that upheld the policy of affirmative action in 2003. He has been called to give testimony in civil rights suits by the U.S. Department of Justice and many other civil rights, legal services, and educational organizations. He was awarded the American Political Science Association’s Charles Merriam Award and was also honored with the 2007 Social Justice in Education Award by the American Educational Research Association.
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    Summer 2011 Issue


    Symposium: Unraveling the Double Bind
    Women of Color in STEM
    Editors of the Harvard Educational Review
    The Double Bind
    The Next Generation
    Lindsey E. Malcom and Shirley M. Malcom
    Inside the Double Bind
    A Synthesis of Empirical Research on Undergraduate and Graduate Women of Color in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics
    Maria Ong, Carol Wright, Lorelle L. Espinosa, and Gary Orfield
    Pipelines and Pathways
    Women of Color in Undergraduate STEM Majors and the College Experiences That Contribute to Persistence
    Lorelle L. Espinosa
    Unique Challenges for Women of Color in STEM Transferring from Community Colleges to Universities
    Marie-Elena Reyes
    Symposium: Learning After Disaster
    Voices from Haiti and New Orleans
    Editors of the Harvard Educational Review
    Rebuilding a Country, Cultivating Local Capacity
    Interview with Fabienne Doucet and Louis Herns Marcelin
    Raygine DiAquoi
    Diasporic Lakou
    A Haitian Academic Explores Her Path to Haiti Pre- and Post-Earthquake
    Charlene Désir
    Race, Charter Schools, and Conscious Capitalism
    On the Spatial Politics of Whiteness as Property (and the Unconscionable Assault on Black New Orleans)
    Kristen L. Buras
    “There Is a Lot That I Want to Do”
    Reflections on the Relief Efforts in Haiti
    Raygine DiAquoi
    Who Dat Say (We) “Too Depraved to Be Saved”?
    Remembering Katrina/Haiti (and Beyond): Critical Studyin’ for Human Freedom
    Joyce King

    Book Notes

    Storytelling for Social Justice
    by Lee Anne Bell

    Quality Education as a Constitutional Right
    edited by Theresa Perry, Robert P. Moses, Joan T. Wynne, Ernesto Cortés Jr., and Lisa Delpit

    Black Youth Rising
    by Shawn A. Ginwright