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Resilience and Success

The Professional Journeys of African American Women Scientists


Kabba E. Colley and Binta M. Colley

Resilience and Success charts the education and career trajectories of African American women scientists and sheds light as to why young African American females drop off the science map in high school. It constructs a story about the map, which includes exits, entrances and turns. This phenomenon was influenced by cultural and socio-economic issues; class, race relations and racial biases; geography and most important, opportunities and serendipity. None of the roads were smooth as these African American women followed in the footsteps of those who had gone before them. It is critical for young African American female students to know that they have a passion and sense of curiosity befitting a future scientist. The stories of these women serve as a model for the way families, teachers, counselors, community activists and policy makers can participate in developing a new generation of African American women scientists.


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CHAPTER 10: Framework for Success in Science and Policy Implications 120


CHAPTER 10 Framework for Success in Science and Policy Implications In this book, we set out to investigate the academic and professional trajectories of African American women scientists. We were interested in answering the following questions: What are the personal characteristics and academic backgrounds of African American women scientists? What led them to careers in science? What academic trajectories did they follow? What professional trajectories did they follow? What factors contributed to their success in science? Using a sample survey, case study, research synthesis, and the framework of Critical Race Theory, we found that African American women scientists are not a homogenous group, rather they are a diverse group in terms of age, marital status, academic and professional trajectories, factors attracting them to science, and factors contributing to their success in science. There were some commonalities, and the thread that runs through the case study is that their personal characteristics were overwhelmingly molded by family beliefs. All of the women interviewed told stories of how, by one means or another, they were raised to believe that education was a necessity. Not just any education, but choices that would put them in better stead than their parents. For some women scientists, the role models their parents projected were clear. They were the daughters of engineers, veterinarians, two generations of educators, and college professors. For some parents, the lack of a college education was the springboard that drove them to encourage, support, and push their daughters to do better. All of the...

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