Engineering and Physics Faculty Research and Publications


Resilient Engineering Identity Development Critical to Prolonged Engagement of Black Women in Engineering

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Journal of Engineering Education

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Background: Social identity theory has been used to understand student and professional engagement in engineering. Engineering identity development, however, can be disrupted by the barriers and challenges associated with the racialized and gendered perceptions of engineering.

Purpose/Hypothesis: This study examined the engineering identity development and resilience of Black women engineers in industry through the exploration of their experiences in the engineering workplace. Many studies document challenges that underrepresented groups face in engineering. This work, instead, focuses on particular supports and empowerment that enabled continued participation in the engineering workforce over time.

Design/Method: This interpretative phenomenological analysis consisted of nine self‐identified Black women engineers currently employed in engineering industry with at least 10 years of work experience and explored the background, pathway into and through engineering, and what it means to be an engineer through 90‐min interviews with each participant.

Results: The results of this study suggest that engineering identity development alone does not contribute to the retention of Black women in the engineering workplace but instead the confluence of race, gender, and role identity that aids in developing a resilient engineering identity.

Conclusions: The formal, informal, and structural educational experiences of Black women engineers are critical to the development of a resilient engineering identity. This identity is dependent on the complexities associated with being Black, a woman, and an engineer.

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