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"Microaggressions" in engineering education: Climate for Asian, Latina and White women

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2 Author(s)
Camacho, M.M. ; Sociology & Affiliated Fac. in Ethnic Studies, Univ. of San Diego, San Diego, CA, USA ; Lord, S.M.

How do women experience the climate of engineering undergraduate education? How is this shaped by race/ethnicity? Using a focus group methodology, we interviewed women who self-identify as Asian, Latina and White at a large public institution in the southeastern United States. Their narratives are analyzed using the interdisciplinary theoretical framework of “microaggressions” from the social sciences. Microaggressions arise from subtle and covert racist and sexist acts which occur frequently in the lives of marginalized groups. Women of all races, who remain severely underrepresented in engineering, may be considered a marginalized group. For women of color, stereotypes of the “model minority” or “affirmative action baby” also overlay their experiences. Microaggressions occur at multiple levels: at the institutional level, at the interpersonal level, and as jokes or humor that subtly deride women's place in engineering. In this paper, we provide examples of each of these types of microaggressions in the experiences of women majoring in engineering and how these are processed differently depending on race/ethnicity. Our findings provide a nuanced perspective on how these microaggressions help shape the academic and social aspects of the climate of undergraduate engineering education.

Published in:

Frontiers in Education Conference (FIE), 2011

Date of Conference:

12-15 Oct. 2011