In/visible: the intersectional experiences of women of color in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine in Australia
Nash, M and Moore, R, In/visible: the intersectional experiences of women of color in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine in Australia, Gender, Work and Organization pp. 1-17. ISSN 1468-0432 (2022) [Refereed Article]
It is now well-established that science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM) institutions globally should invest in building diverse and inclusive workforces. However, women of color remain underrepresented in STEMM in Australia and their organizational experiences are under-researched. To address this gap, we used a qualitative approach to explore the complex intersections of race/ethnicity and gender that may contribute to women's underrepresentation in Australian STEMM. Primary data encompassed interviews with 30 self-identified women of color working in academia, industry, and government STEMM organizations. We drew on intersectionality theory to explore participants' experiences of their working environments and grounded theory in our analysis. This article focuses on an understudied area related to the maintenance of white male power in STEMM and everyday experiences of "in/visibility"—the paradoxical space of invisibility and hypervisibility that women of color occupy within STEMM fields. For example, various features of women of color's identities, such as physical appearance, cultural background, accent, and name, led to participants feeling "different" and hypervisible in STEMM workplaces in Australia, in which the stereotype of a white male scientist predominates. Women also felt hypervisible as race/gender tokens when they were expected to do the diversity work of the institution. In contrast, participants felt invisible when they were professionally and socially excluded from networking events, such as after-work drinks. Women of color's experiences of having to work much harder than white colleagues to gain recognition of their organizational value also contributed to feelings of invisibility. The study findings provide deep insight into Australian STEMM cultures by foregrounding how in/visibility shows up in the experiences of women of color. This study builds on our understanding of women's STEMM careers as inextricably linked to intersectional features of social identity and white masculine power dynamics in organizations and society more broadly. We conclude by advocating for a more nuanced understanding of "women in STEMM" in Australia (e.g., via more sophisticated data collection and analysis) to ensure that national policies and initiatives benefit all women.
women of colour, STEMM, hypervisibility, gender equity