GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 230-7
Presentation Time: 3:15 PM


JAIMES, Patricia, Earth and Environmental Sciences Department, Geocognition Research Laboratory, 288 Farm Lane #117, East Lansing, MI 48823

Science educators have long tried to understand how to increase the participation of underrepresented minorities (URM’s) in STEM, with capital - non-financial and financial resources that allow individuals to succeed in life - playing an important role. Historically, STEM initiatives to increase diversity, such as student research programs, have focused on providing only two types of capital to URM’s: 1) social capital, by connecting them with scientific mentors and 2) cultural capital, teaching them scientific norms. Although providing these capitals are useful for recruiting URM’s into STEM, lack of diversity continues to be a problem, suggesting that these efforts need to focus not just on recruitment but also on retention. Unfortunately, most initiatives do not recognize that for many URM’s, capitals derived from non-scientific sources are just as important to their career success as those derived from scientific sources.

This study seeks to understand the capitals that URM scientists accessed while pursuing a scientific career. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with URM scientists (N=16) who identified as Latinx, African American, Queer, or Disabled. Interviews explored participant’s academic and career experiences in STEM. Interviews were analyzed using a predetermined coding scheme (deductive coding). The capitals most important to participants were social (networks) and intrinsic (internal motivation). Access to social capital derived primarily from mentors and family. Although access to cultural capital (scientific knowledge) and economic capital (financial resources) was also important for progressing in their scientific careers, participants could only access these through first accessing social capital. Social, cultural, and economic capitals were categorized as external capitals because they derived from outside influences. Intrinsic capital emerged when participants encountered social barriers such as poverty, racism, ableism, or sexism, allowing participants to push back and defy social barriers to persist in their scientific endeavors. I present a new capital framework model that demonstrates how external capitals are derived and interconnected and how intrinsic capital enables URM scientists to persist in scientific careers.