Study Shows Why Black Women Are Mostly Absent From Schools of Engineering


By Victor Trammell

Hidden Figures, the star-studded, critically acclaimed biopic about three black women who worked in aeronautics during the Civil Rights Era highly motivated a supportive audience earlier this year.

That audience was largely consistent of black women in America who wanted to see a more dynamic side of their favorite black actresses. That hunger for more in the world of cinema propelled Hidden Figures toward the top of the box office sales list and rocketed co-stars Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monae, and Octavia Spencer to award worthy prominence. Though the film was based on a historical reality, today’s reality of black women in the field of engineering does not register the same kind of jubilance felt at the movie theaters.

Trina Fletcher, Monique Ross DeLean, Tolbert James, Holly Monica Cardella, Allison Godwin, and Jennifer DeBoer are all graduate-level engineering students at Purdue University’s Engineering Education Program.

This group of students are the authors of a newly published study titled “Ignored Potential: A Collaborative Roadmap for Increasing African American Women in Engineering.” Fletcher and her fellow students did not only identify the problem of a major lack of African American women in the study of engineering.

They also explained why African American women are absent from this field and what can be done to change this sobering reality. “Lack of visible role models in engineering, stereotype threat, biculturalism, tokenism, feelings of isolation, and pay inequities in the engineering workforce are all factors at play,” the study authors wrote.

However, the study went on to conclude that solutions to the problem of a lack of African American women in the engineering field lies with the parents and guardians who are raising today’s girls. The study also gave a more immediate solution, which emphasized social responsibility.

“We must also invest in systems that value African American women and their contributions. This set of recommendations provided is by no means exhaustive; rather, it is intended to spark a conversation on how to increase the participation of African American women in engineering,” the authors concluded.

To read Ignored Potential  in its entirety, click the link below to the source given for this article.






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