An intersectional exploration of the STEM-related expectancy-value beliefs of young women of color : a comparative case study.


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Young women of color continue to be significantly underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields such as computer science, engineering, mathematics, and statistics. It is critical to investigate issues regarding the motivation of young women of color in nontraditional STEM domains because significant attrition occurs. Many Black and Brown female high school students interested in pursuing STEM careers fail to persist in higher education degree programs. As a result of experiencing STEM learning through the lens of multiple marginalized identities, young women of color often express challenges in developing a sense of belonging. Frequent encounters with microaggressions from parents, peers, and school faculty subtly communicate to young women of color that they do not belong in STEM fields, thus impeding their abilities to identify with the content areas and remain motivated. Socioeconomic factors, gender, race, and culture influence the expectations for success and value beliefs women of color associate with these content areas. This comparative case study allowed six young women of color to communicate their perspectives regarding how their multiple identities, value beliefs, and STEM learning experiences shaped their self-concepts and motivation to persist. This qualitative investigation employed an intersectional expectancy-value theoretical framework and a multi-sited approach to investigate the influence of gender, race, and socioeconomic status on Black and Brown female high school students’ STEM-related expectancy-value beliefs and cost perceptions. Semi-structured interviews and written journal responses provided an avenue to gain insight into the STEM perspectives of purposefully selected young women of color. Three participants were enrolled in an urban charter high school serving low-income students living in poverty, and three attended a suburban magnet school ranked as one of the top 500 STEM high school programs in America. The investigation found that despite differing educational institutions and economic situations, decreased motivation surrounding women of color remained consistent. Critical stakeholders must be aware of gender and racially based stereotypes’ negative impact on young women of color to increase STEM motivation and persistence. The study also found that parental influences played a significant role in forming STEM identity, and reeducation surrounding STEM career choice options must occur.