Beyond the Double Bind: Women of Color in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics

Principal Investigator: 
Project Overview
Background & Purpose: 

The purpose of Beyond the Double Bind is two-fold: 1) to identify critical elements of retention and attrition through narratives, or life stories, of women of color who have either persisted or left STEM; and 2) to collect and analyze evidence about what programmatic strategies work to promote undergraduate and graduate women in STEM, and under what conditions they work.


Site visits are being conducted on the East Coast at a variety of medium and large public and private higher education institutions.

Research Design: 

The research design for this project is comparative. The project will generate evidence that is descriptive [ethnography, observational] and collects original data using observation [personal observation] and survey research [semi-structured or informal interviews]. Other sources of data include written narratives (autobiographies, biographies) found via the web and solicitations. The target population of interest is minority female undergraduates, graduate students, and early to mid- career professionals in STEM.

We developed five protocols for open-ended, semi-structured interviews with members of the following groups: professionals and graduate students who persisted in STEM; professionals and graduate students who left STEM; program staff; students in programs; and faculty. We also developed an observation protocol for classes and study groups. Data to be collected from minority women include: 95 narratives (75 persisters, 15 switchers), 16 life story interviews, and 4 site visits (2 exemplary, 2 traditional).

Using narrative analysis, the researchers will construct a matrix from the narrative data that inductively tracks factors (codes) that influence minority women’s participation in STEM in college, graduate school, and early careers. They will then group and order the codes by themes, interpret them, and elaborate a theory about overarching factors that advance women of color through STEM higher education and into STEM professions. To analyze the programmatic ethnographic and interview data, the team will apply grounded theory (Glaser & Strauss 1967).


Findings will be posted as they become available.