Date of Award

Spring 2018

Document Type

Restricted Thesis

Terms of Use

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Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Educational Studies Department, Sociology & Anthropology Department

First Advisor

Nina Johnson

Second Advisor

Joseph Derrick Nelson


STEM education has boomed in the past decade and with that, programs to generate interest among women and people of color, who have been historically marginalized in STEM. Programs and initiatives have been successful at sparking interest in these groups and yet higher levels of occupational and educational achievement and status in the STEM fields remain exclusive to primarily white men. Past research helps us understand how marginalized groups are pushed out of their disciplines but there is little work investigating how the women who stay persevere despite the adversity they face. This thesis seeks to understand what factors contribute to the retention of diverse women in STEM according to their narratives and what opportunities do secondary and post-secondary STEM education programs have to make these encouraging factors more widely accessible? The purpose of studying the role of education in reifying or resisting gendered structures in STEM is to understand what women experience in their fields, what the roots of both positive and negative experiences are, their effects on the spectrum of outcomes for women in science, and how positive influences can be more broadly applied. Through in-depth interviews and analysis, I seek to understand how eight female-identifying undergraduate college students from different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds and majoring in different STEM fields at a small, progressive liberal arts college persisted in their disciplines against the odds and dealt with adversity to forge a space of their own. This work has implications for academia and educational stakeholders to evaluate the disservice we do to ourselves and society by pushing women and other marginalized groups out of STEM disciplines through lack of access to quality education, discrimination in the field, and how the very culture, design, and fabric of the discipline remains exclusionary.