Disaggregating the Monolith: A Case Study on Varied Engineering Career Orientations and Strategies of Black Women in Tech
Hall, Janice Leshay
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Diversifying the engineering workforce has been a national imperative for several decades. The increased participation of Black students in engineering is commonly identified as a crucial area for improvement. Yet, the rates of engineering degree completion are slowing for Black women in particular. In 2015, less than one percent of all U.S. engineering bachelor's degrees were awarded to Black women. To support broadening participation efforts, I use an anti-deficit approach to examine the career orientations and mobility patterns of Black women working in computing and engineering roles in the tech industry. By characterizing the different career motivations, strategies, and points of transition in the careers of a diverse sample of Black women, I sought to disaggregate the Black women's engineering and computing career experiences—particularly as it relates to how and why they move into, around and out of roles in the tech industry. Using a qualitative multi-case study, I conducted a multi-level career mobility analysis on secondary data and user-generated social media artifacts to extend theory on career orientations and talent management to help normalize "non-traditional" career trajectories. The study findings are useful to inform the next generation of Black women interested in tech on the different ways to approach and achieve subjective career success and satisfaction in engineering and computing fields. In this dissertation work, I discuss how the varied insights of Black women's career experiences in tech can be leveraged for practitioners and industry leaders to broaden the participation (e.g., to attract, retain and better support) of students and employees by identifying their career orientations and then using that to inform career preparation and development that aligns with different engineering and computing career outlooks.
General Audience Abstract
The lack of role models is a hindrance for aspiring Black women engineers and their decisions to continue choosing engineering. The lack of representation of Black women in industry similarly presents obstacles for their career advancement. Because neither role models or representation can be increased in retrospect, it is imperative to study and highlight the visibility of the Black women engineers currently practicing engineering and bring awareness to their career experiences in industry to better inform recruitment and retention efforts. The purpose of this qualitative multi-case study is to describe the varied career orientations of Black women working as engineers in Tech and to link their career orientations to their career outcomes. To support broadening participation efforts, this research uses an anti-deficit approach to examine the career mobility patterns of Black women working in computing and engineering roles in the Tech industry. Using a curated secondary data set based on social media artifacts and user generated data, this study characterizes the different career motivations, strategies, and points of transition in the careers of a diverse sample of Black women. In efforts to disaggregate Black women's engineering and computing career experiences, ten perspectives on how and why Black women move into, around and out of roles in the tech industry were examined. The analysis revealed that participants' career orientations were differentially motivated by needs, talents and or values which influenced how participants made career related decisions. Additionally, both physical and psychological mobility of participants was examined and then compared in the cross-case analysis to derive six unique career archetypes that were useful in characterizing the career challenges and aspirations in participants' lived career experience. This study aims to normalize "non-traditional" career trajectories and inform the next generation of Black women interested in Tech on the different way(s) to approach and achieve career success and satisfaction in engineering and computing fields. In addition, study findings can be leveraged by human resource personnel and career managers to anticipate common career challenges based on individual employee career orientations, and align better reward structures and policies to support a wider range of employee career outlooks. The study emphasizes the strategies and outlooks critical for Black women's success and satisfaction to support their continued participation in the engineering and computing workforce.
- Doctoral Dissertations