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  • CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY, NORTHRIDGE

    SUCCESS STEMS FROM DIVERSITY

    THE VALUE OF LATINAS IN STEM

    A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements

    For the degree of Master of Arts in

    Chicano and Chicana Studies

    By

    Eva Longoria

    August 2013

  • ii

    The thesis of Eva Longoria is approved:

    _________________________________ _________________________

    Mary Pardo Date

    _________________________________ _________________________

    Christina Ayala-Alcantar Date

    _________________________________ _________________________

    Theresa Montaño, Chair Date

    California State University, Northridge

  • iii

    California State University, Northridge

    Table of Contents

    Signature Page ii

    Abstract v

    Chapter One – Introduction 1

    Demographic Overview 2

    Why focus on Latinas? 3

    Chapter Two – Theoretical Framework 6

    Critical Race Theory 6

    Cultural Deficit Theory 8

    Literature Review 11

    La Familia y Cultura 12

    Socioeconomic Status 17

    Academic Preparation 21

    Teachers 23

    Curriculum 25

    Tracking 26

    Four Year Institutions versus Two Year Institutions 29

    Chapter Three – Methodology 33

    Sample Population 34

    Procedure 35

    Data Analysis 36

    Chapter Four – Findings/Results 37

    Community Cultural Wealth 37

    Aspirational Capital 37

    Familial Capital 38

    Resistance Capital 40

    Socioeconomic Circumstances 42

    Academic Preparation 48

    Tracking 48

    Teachers 53

  • iv

    Sexism 62

    Chapter Five – Conclusion 68

    Community Cultural Wealth 69

    Socioeconomic Status 69

    Academic Preparation 70

    Sexism 72

    Limitations 73

    Recommendations 74

    Recognize Cultural and Community Wealth and Partnership

    with Parents 74

    Implement Early Preparation Programs and Encouragement

    in STEM 74

    Recognize and Eliminate Sexism in STEM 75

    References 77

    Appendix A: Questions for Study 86

    Appendix B: Oral Consent Form 89

    Appendix C: Adult Consent Form 90

  • v

    ABSTRACT

    SUCCESS STEMS FROM DIVERSITY

    THE VALUE OF LATINAS IN STEM

    By

    Eva Longoria

    Master of Arts in Chicano and Chicana Studies

    Latinas/os only make up three percent of our nation’s scientist and engineers according to

    the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES, 2007) and Latinas represented only

    one percent of employed scientists and engineers. This qualitative study is an

    examination of Latinas academically preparing for or entering the STEM (Science,

    Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) profession. In particular, this study

    explored the issues, barriers, and successes experience by this group of women. Analysis

    of the interview responses revealed four common themes that impacted the academic

    and/or professional lives of these Latinas: 1) community cultural wealth, 2)

    socioeconomic circumstances, 3) academic preparation, and 4) sexism. Based on the

    findings, the study proposes recommendations for change and emphasized the need for

    increasing the number of ethnically diverse students, primarily Latinas, entering STEM

    programs in the United States.

  • 1

    Chapter 1 – Introduction

    Introduction

    The purpose of the study is to critically examine the barriers to educational attainment

    among Latinas in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and to

    document how Latinas currently interested in STEM majors or currently working in

    STEM fields successfully navigated the educational system. This is a qualitative study

    that addresses the issues beyond the statistics and examines the lives of Latinas wanting

    to pursue a career in STEM fields and those who are currently employed in STEM jobs.

    The data collected from the study should allow us to create effective interventions that

    eliminate the common factors impeding STEM degree completion for Latinas and to

    identify and replicate the common factors that lead to success for Latinas in STEM fields.

    STEM is an acronym that represents the fields of science, technology, engineering and

    mathematics. It has become a highly examined topic as we live in an increasingly

    technological world. It has also become a highly scrutinized topic as there seems to be a

    disconnect between educational demands and occupational demands. The key to

    strengthening the U.S. economy is highly dependent on what our education system

    produces. The reality is that our current education system cannot produce the talent

    companies need in the marketplace today. According to Carnevale, Smith & Strohl

    (2010) “all the information required to align postsecondary educational choices with

    careers are available, but unused.” According to an organization called Change the

    Equation (2012) there are 3.6 unemployed workers for every job in the United States

    compared to only one unemployed STEM worker for two unfilled STEM jobs. Today,

  • 2

    there are over 3 million available jobs available in STEM fields however they are going

    unfilled because we lack the people with the right skill sets (Carnevale et al., 2010).

    Furthermore, STEM employment is expected to grow at a far faster rate than overall

    employment. The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (2012)

    predicted that colleges and universities will need to produce one million more STEM

    professionals over the next ten years in order to satisfy the job demands in the United

    States. Therefore, colleges and universities are burdened with the economic imperative

    to meet the demand of producing our nation’s future STEM professionals.

    Demographic Overview

    The Latino population in the United States has experienced significant and consistent

    growth, particularly among youth and women. The 2010 Census determined that

    Hispanics are the country’s largest minority group, including more than 50.5 million

    people. Hispanics now compose 16 percent of the total population. Latinos accounted for

    more than half of the nation’s growth in the last decade and will continue to drive growth

    in the decades to come (U.S. Census, 2010). Latinos are a young population with more

    than 17.1 million Latinos younger than age 18 and unfortunately they have the lowest

    education attainment level of any group in the United States (Pew Hispanic Center,

    2011). In fact, Latino graduation rates remain the lowest of all major ethnic groups in the

    United States and it appears that these rates will not keep pace with their population

    growth (Solórzano, Villalpando, & Oseguera, 2005). The growing number of school-age

    Latinos is significant. As of 2009, Latinos make up 48 percent of the public schools in

    California and 46 percent in Texas (Gándara & Contreras, 2009). Before the year 2030,

    Latinos will be 25 percent of the total school-aged population consisting of 16 million

  • 3

    students (Pew Hispanic Center, 2011). By the year 2040, the number of college age

    Latinos will increase to 8 million; however, only 1-2 million will actually enroll in

    college (Cole & Espinoza, 2008). But despite this growth Solórzano et al. (2005) state

    “Latinas/os still remain underrepresented at almost every level of the educational

    pipeline” (p. 286).

    According to the American Council on Education (2006), colleges and universities must

    increase the number of STEM degrees earned by Latinos and African Americans in order

    to stay globally competitive and to best reflect the nation’s changing demographics. Since

    future generations of this nation will primarily be people of color, it will be up to this

    group to continue America’s “economic competitiveness” during the technology age

    (Anderson & Kim, 2006). Camacho and Lord (2013) contend that “on the basis of

    quantitative measures alone, among all underrepresented minorities, Latinos could have

    the greatest impact on the field of engineering” (p. 104).

    Why focus on Latinas?

    In their seminal report on the status of Latinas in education, the American Association of

    University Women (2001) noted that “Latinas now constitute the largest minority group

    of girls in the United States,” representing 8 percent of the total U.S. population (Ginorio

    & Huston, 2001, p. viii). According to AAUW research conducted by Ginorio and

    Huston (2001), the high school graduation rate of Latinas was lower than that of gir

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