Date of Degree

6-2022

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Psychology

Advisor

Catherine Good

Advisor

Daryl Wout

Committee Members

Virginia Valian

Jessica Remedios

Subject Categories

Social Psychology

Keywords

intersectionality, education, equity, inclusion, STEM interventions

Abstract

Civil rights activist Robert P. Moses was a driving force in defining equitable dissemination of quality science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education as an act of social justice. My work borrows this frame to highlight access to STEM education as a civil rights issue and to emphasize the importance of taking a social justice approach to interventions for those who experience intersecting systems of oppression (i.e., Black and Latina women), and for whom previous intervention efforts have not adequately addressed. Ameliorating racial and gender disparities through fostering psychological safety (e.g., belonging) in STEM fields has been a substantive focus for intervention research. However, these interventions have overwhelmingly focused on 1) a single-axis perspective of fostering psychological safety (i.e., only focusing on either students’ race or gender) and 2) shifting students’ attitudes and behavior individually. Through 2 experimental online studies, I provide evidence for the importance of leveraging instructors as a point of intervention to increase psychological safety for Black and Latina women in STEM. The first study demonstrates that differing levels of (un)shared social identities directly work to influence psychological safety for Black and Latina women in STEM contexts which, in turn, shape their educational decision making. Additionally, this study found strong evidence of ethnic prominence: Black and Latina women reported maximal psychological safety from and higher intentions to enroll in racial ingroup professors’ classes. Study 2 investigates the utility of teaching philosophies as a subtle intervention to increase psychological safety of outgroup STEM instructors for Black and Latina women. This study found that belonging-based teaching philosophies (i.e., belonging and belonging + social justice) resulted in higher perceptions of advocacy, safety, and intention to enroll regardless of participant race. The effect of the social justice teaching philosophy on these perceptions varied as a function of participant race. Overall, these studies emphasize the importance of taking an intersectional approach to social psychological research, especially for intervention work. Additionally, this work offers theoretical and applied implications for educational interventions aimed at achieving parity in STEM domains with a particular focus on the efficacy of imbuing STEM contexts with social justice narratives.

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