Asee peer logo

Traditional Prejudice, Modern Discrimination: An Examination of Microaggressions Targeting Male and Female Latinx Engineering Undergraduates

Download Paper |

Conference

2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Critical Conversations on Being Valued

Tagged Divisions

Equity and Culture & Social Justice in Education

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

14

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/37926

Download Count

109

Request a correction

Paper Authors

biography

Kalynda Chivon Smith North Carolina A&T State University

visit author page

I earned a Ph.D. and an M.S. in Social Psychology from Howard University and a BA in Psychology and English from Truman State University. I am a social psychologist with expertise in STEM education and identity development research. I am currently an Assistant Professor of Psychology at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and Co-PI or Investigator on several interdisciplinary NSF-funded STEM education research projects.

visit author page

biography

Cristina Poleacovschi Iowa State University of Science and Technology

visit author page

Dr. Poleacovschi is an Assistant Professor at Iowa State University. She researches issues of diversity and focuses on intersectional aspects of microaggressions.

visit author page

biography

Scott Grant Feinstein

visit author page

Dr. Scott Feinstein is an expert in research design and comparative and identity politics.

visit author page

biography

Stephanie Luster-Teasley North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University

visit author page

Dr. Stephanie Luster-Teasley is an Associate Professor with a joint appointment in the Departments of Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering, and Chemical, Biological, and Bioengineering. Over the last ten years, Dr. Luster-Teasley has demonstrated excellence in teaching by using a variety of research-based, student-centered, pedagogical methods to increase diversity in STEM. Her teaching and engineering education work has resulted in her receiving the 2013 UNC Board of Governors Teaching Excellence Award, which is the highest teaching award conferred by the UNC system for faculty.

visit author page

Download Paper |

Abstract

Much research has demonstrated that engineering education programs are less likely to retain women and students of color at every point in the pipeline. Although Latinx people have grown to be the largest minority group in the United States, they continue to remain a small percentage of engineering students. When examining retention, what has not been adequately considered are students’ experiences with modern prejudice in an engineering education setting. Because traditional forms of racism and sexism have become taboo, students are more likely to be the targets of microaggressions than traditional discrimination. Microaggressions are ambiguous slights targeting people with marginalized identities that leave the victim unsure of how or unable to respond. Over time the seemingly small and inconsequential behaviors are likely to impact victim’s self-efficacy and self-esteem. Microaggressions must be studied in an engineering education setting because these programs tend to be predominantly White and male.

The current study assessed students’ experiences of microaggressions guided by intersectionality and critical race theory. The intersectionality theory explains that prejudice and discrimination are experienced differently when targeting intersecting identities, such as race and gender, than race or gender alone. The current study used the theory of intersectionality to address how Latinx men had different experiences than Latinx women due to their differing intersecting identities. Critical race theory explains how the structure of engineering education enabled the Latinx students’ experiences of racism and sexism in the form of microaggressions.

The participants were eight Latinx males and six Latinx females attending a Historically Black University and a Predominantly White Institution. The participants were engineering majors 18 years of age or older and identified as cisgender. The institutions were both land grant institutions with well-known ABET-accredited engineering programs. Students participated in one-on-one interviews that lasted no more than an hour.

The findings demonstrated that both male and female students experienced microaggressions in their engineering programs. More incidents took place at the PWI, and while male and female students had some experiences in common, their intersectional identities also led to different experiences. Both groups were treated as if they were not qualified to be in their engineering programs due to their ethnicity. Peers did not think they could do the work or ignored Latinx students’ contributions. Women were more often ignored or told that they were not good enough due to their gender. Women were also more often criticized for speaking Spanish and scolded when they defended themselves. Men were more often subjected to derogatory jokes about “Mexicans” as criminals, “jokingly” accused of being criminals, and often reminded that their ethnicity would make it harder for them to succeed.

These findings suggest that even among the most diverse generation in U.S. history, negative stereotypes about Latinx people as foreigners, criminals, and overly aggressive persist in an engineering education environment. While higher education is typically considered an inclusive progressive space, engineering education programs continue to ostracize people of color, in particular Latinx people, in an ever-increasingly racially diverse nation.

Smith, K. C., & Poleacovschi, C., & Feinstein, S. G., & Luster-Teasley, S. (2021, July), Traditional Prejudice, Modern Discrimination: An Examination of Microaggressions Targeting Male and Female Latinx Engineering Undergraduates Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/37926

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2021 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015