What Sports Do You Play? Actually, My Major Is Mathematics: Experiencing STEM as a Woman of African Descent

What Sports Do You Play? Actually, My Major Is Mathematics: Experiencing STEM as a Woman of African Descent

Natasha N. Ramsay-Jordan (University of West Georgia, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8870-2.ch003

Abstract

Although many different cultures contribute richly to the development of mathematics, many research scholars promote Western and Eurocentric perspectives of mathematics as dominant forces in mathematics history, texts, curriculum, and instruction. This absence of diverse mathematicians has worked to shape current negative narratives surrounding people of color in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Particularly, women of African descent remain underrepresented in STEM, comprising only 1.6% of STEM professionals with bachelor's degrees, and only 1.4% of those with doctoral degrees. Marked by the intersection of systemic and institutionalized racism and gender oppression, these women, experience “double bind” challenges. Using the author's personal story, she explores these challenges to highlight how institutionalized racism and sexism permeated her mathematics-STEM experience. Lastly, approaches of how to navigate, discretely and indiscreetly, the underrepresentation of young girls and women of color in STEM are offered.
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Studying Mathematics As A Woman Of African Descent: Perceptions And Negotiated Experiences

One week after graduating from high school I started college. I opted to attend a college that would present a different outlook on life. I wanted to attend a college far away from the hustle and bustle of New York City. I wanted something different. I applied and was accepted to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In many ways I stood out in Nebraska, but I was a student of Dr. Frank M. Mickens, and as a result I could be, and do anything. Although the great teacher leadership qualities of both my mother and Dr. Mickens were infectious, my journey on becoming that ‘anything’ would not be an easy feat. Nebraska’s demographics reminded me daily that I was the ‘other’. With a total population of 1.92 million, less than 18% of Nebraskans are people of color with African descendants comprising less than 4%. This was evidenced, in each of my mathematics classrooms where I found myself being the only woman of color, one of few women, and the only Afro-Caribbean. Throughout my years at UNL, the race and gender unbalance became my reality.

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