The Underrepresentation of Women of Color in the STEM Field: A Phenomenological Study

The Underrepresentation of Women of Color in the STEM Field: A Phenomenological Study

Author: 
Novella S. Hill
Program of study: 
D.M./IST
Abstract: 
Women of color (WOC) in the United States remain an underrepresented population in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) field. Research indicates the percentage of WOC seeking academic degrees in the STEM field has dropped significantly over the last decade. Because of the meager percentages, the lack of WOC pursuing STEM education and professions is a major concern. This study revealed that WOC often encounter a variety of educational and workforce challenges in the STEM field that impede their progress. Some of the primary challenges identified by the participants of this study were an absence of female mentors, coaches, and role models; the existence of educational and workplace biases; personal insecurities, male-dominated environments, ethnicity gaps, and challenging STEM curricula. This qualitative phenomenological research study explored the lived experience perceptions of 10 WOC students and professionals in the STEM field. Eight themes emerged from this study. Theme 1 identifies STEM deterrents. Theme 2 focuses on the presence of gender inequity. Theme 3 addresses the lack of mentors, role models, and coaches. Theme 4 highlights the lack of access to organizational STEM programs and social media networks. Theme 5 documents how WOC must work to overcome challenges and barriers in the field. Theme 6 highlights WOC observations of leadership. Theme 7 addresses the need for leadership to encourage and attract more WOC to the STEM field. Theme 8 deals with offering advice for WOC associates considering STEM study.
Dedication: 
I dedicate this dissertation to my two granddaughters—Marshe’ Monique and Suan Aigner Hill. Thanks for cheering me on; I love you both for the joy you bring to my life and for the encouragement you gave to me throughout my doctoral journey. As leaders of tomorrow, I encourage each of you to believe in yourself and know that you can accomplish anything that you set your mind to do. My desire for each of you is to aspire to dream, achieve, excel, set unlimited goals, and lead the way for future generations. I also dedicate my dissertation to the following family members. To my son, Robert Martel Hill, for the encouragement and interest he offered me throughout my doctoral program. To my daughter, Felicia Lynette Hill, who took on the roles of housekeeper-in-chief, chef, chauffeur, business manager, and nurse during my doctoral journey. To my brother, Sylvester Wade Simpkins, and his family and my sister, Lucinda Sprowl, and her family for their encouragement and support during my doctoral studies. Thanks to each of you for your love and prayers that aided me in the achievement of my academic goals on such a remarkable journey! I return the love and prayers with the following Bible verse. “The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.” Numbers 6:24-26 (King James Version).
Acknowledgements: 
I give praise and honor to God whom I serve. I thank God for the many blessings He has bestowed upon me and for the opportunity He has provided me to pursue an advanced level of education and to earn a doctoral degree. I also thank God for giving me the desire, strength, and courage to complete my academic journey in a productive, organized, and timely manner. God is good all of the time! “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.” Psalm 42:1 (King James Version). I thank my dissertation committee chairperson, Dr. Judith A. Tanner, for her leadership and direction during the development of my dissertation. Dr. Tanner’s support, high standards of excellence, and commitment to my efforts contributed substantially to the quality, thoroughness, and successful completion of my dissertation. I also extend thanks to Dr. Sandra Robinson and Dr. Margaret Gresham, dissertation committee members, for the many times they reviewed my dissertation and for providing me feedback, insight, and encouragement. Special thanks to the entire dissertation committee for their participation, support, and interest in my dissertation topic. Finally, I acknowledge the blessed opportunity to experience the love, support, and prayers of my family who encouraged and embraced me during my doctoral studies. You all were instrumental in helping to make my dream a reality; thanks for sharing in this exceptional milestone with me. I am most grateful to each of you for your patience, understanding, and contribution of time you shared with me on this amazing journey. Thanks and love to each of you!