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Minority Women in the Workplace: Early Career Challenges and Strategies for Overcoming Obstacles

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Women in Engineering Division Technical Session 5

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

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Paper Authors


Nicole Yates National Society of Black Engineers Orcid 16x16

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Nicole Yates currently serves as the Senior Research Analyst for the National Society of Black Engineers. She graduated from Stanford University with a Master's degree in Psychology and completed a thesis that focused on gender differences in reasons for switching from STEM to non-STEM majors. Her background is in research and academia.

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Roberta Rincon Society of Women Engineers

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Dr. Rincon joined the Society of Women Engineers in February 2016 as the Manager of Research, where she oversees the organization's research activities around female engineers from elementary through college and into the workforce. With over 15 years of experience in higher education administration, including as a Senior Research and Policy Analyst for The University of Texas System, her focus has been on understanding the factors that impact student success and influencing the policies that support students from high school through college completion. Her responsibilities have included managing various award and faculty recruitment programs, analyzing the impact of state legislative actions, coordinating efforts to increase resilience among college students, and preparing white papers on topics ranging from classroom utilization to student success.
Dr. Rincon received her B.S. in Civil Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin, an MBA and an M.S. in Information Management from Arizona State University, and a Ph.D. in Educational Policy and Planning from The University of Texas at Austin.

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Approximately one in four women leave the engineering profession within the first five years, a rate much higher than their male counterparts (1). Studies of STEM professionals have found that women encounter numerous challenges in hiring and reviews of performance due to implicit bias (2). Women of minority backgrounds are held to stricter standards of competence than whites and are less likely to be recognized for their skills (3).

The purpose of this study, a joint venture between two professional engineering associations, is twofold:

1. Determine what challenges underrepresented minority female engineers have experienced early in their careers

2. Identify the strategies underrepresented minority female engineers employ to cope with those vocational challenges

The target population for this study is underrepresented minority women who are one to five years into their engineering careers. Researchers have chosen this population because women comprise approximately half of all employed college graduates, but they represent only 12% of those with college degrees working in engineering occupations. Minority women (Black and Hispanic) make up less than two percent of engineering professionals.

The study explores the external support systems that assist these women through the beginning stage of their careers; of particular interest is support provided by professional associations and whether or not that support is adequate.

Data will be collected through one-on-one interviews of underrepresented minority female engineers who graduated from an ABET-accredited university with a bachelor's degree between 2011 and 2015. The data collected will be analyzed to identify patterns and themes around the challenges that underrepresented minority female engineers have experienced early in their careers and the strategies they have employed to cope with those challenges.


1. Corbett, C. and Hill, C. (2015). Solving the equation: The variables for women’s success in engineering and computing. AAUW: Washington, DC.

2. Hill, C., Corbett, C., and St. Rose, A. (2010). Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. AAUW: Washington, DC. 3. Obiomon, P.H., Tickles, V.C., Wowo, A.H., Holland-Hunt, S. (2007). Advancement of Women of Color in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Disciplines. Faculty Resource Network.

Yates, N., & Rincon, R. (2017, June), Minority Women in the Workplace: Early Career Challenges and Strategies for Overcoming Obstacles Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28673

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