By identifying as an African-American woman, there are a few ways one can use intersectionality in the workplace. The two macro-categories of this intersectional identity are one of ethnicity and one of gender. Habitually the dominant organizational culture in academia has viewed African American women as outsiders. With this being the case, the path to leadership development in the workplace for African-American women can be convoluted. An experience with its share of unique challenges and setbacks. As a result, to capitalize on a leadership role, one can find oneself withdrawing one’s identity and refraining from expressing full self-authenticity to attain credibility and acceptance in the workplace. In an effort for one to express full self-authenticity, safe havens are generated to protect from uninviting work environments that inhibit personal growth and perpetuate the need for survival. These points highlighted in Kimberlie Crenshaw’s “Mapping the Margins: Intentionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color.”
So, to reiterate, diversity has been lacking in the science and engineering fields; not just diversity in gender but the underrepresented minorities as well. This is not just a statistic that I read about, but I see this more and more as I advanced to my upper-division courses. The number of African American students continues to decrease in all my classes, and this decrease in the number of African American students correlates to the limited number of females within the group. Even if there are times when one can feel that one does not belong, or one’s participation in class is being overlooked, I believe one should stay on course, and attain a good foundation in the engineering workplace and pursue leadership positions. With this opportunity, one can go on to encourage, mentor, and tutor students in an effort for them to develop an interest in STEM-related fields and research. As a woman of color pursuing an engineering degree, there are opportunities available to me due to my insights and perspectives as a woman of color that can aid one in reaching success. In essence, African-American women leaders are cultivated by these internal and external forces that affect their everyday life experiences. Thankfully as the growing need for diversity and inclusion continues to upsurge, so will soon the requirements be met. And as a woman of color, I can use my intersectionality to bring a voice to the urgent issue for the apparent lack of opportunities for women of color to obtain executive leadership positions.
In conclusion, due to the limited number of women of color in the engineering workplace, there appears to be an increased interest from others to understand the perception and experience of women of color. This increased interest can be advantageous for one since programs such as New Horizons Graduate Scholar (NHGS) and the National Graduate Education for Minority Students (GEM) Fellowship. These programs are intended to inspire, encourage, and to support underrepresented students, have emerged due to this increased need for diversity and inclusion. These programs have been useful for my growth as a graduate student and student leadership development here at Virginia Tech.