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ERIC Number: ED576450
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2017
Pages: 267
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: 978-1-3697-0925-4
Why Not Academia?--The Streamlined Career Choice Process of Black African Women Engineers: A Grounded Theory Study
Mlambo, Yeukai Angela
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, Michigan State University
Black African women are grossly underrepresented as academic staff in engineering programs at South African universities. The problem is exacerbated at historically White institutions (HWI) where Black women are simply absent as engineering research and teaching staff. The absence of Black African women in the academy occurs despite Black African women enrolling and graduating with engineering postgraduate degrees making them eligible for academic jobs. Furthermore, despite Black African women representing the largest population in South Africa at 41% of the population overall, and affirmative action policies in place, engineering academic spaces remain predominantly White and male, not representative of the country's population. In fact White women are overrepresented in engineering academe and in some cases White women are the only female presence in engineering higher education employment. If Black African women are graduating with engineering degrees why are they not equally represented in engineering academe as their White female counterparts? How can the absence of Black African women engineering academics be explained? I use Charmaz's constructivist grounded theory (CGT) to understand the career choice processes of Black African engineering alumni women in South Africa to explain why their career choices thus far have not included the academy. Approaching the research from a social constructivist paradigm, loosely guided by a conceptual framework of African feminism(s) and CGT, and borrowing from life history interview methods this study addresses the underrepresentation of Black African women in engineering academe. Findings indicate Black African women's career choices in engineering are driven by prospects of socio-economic mobility and family/community responsibilities, a product of historical circumstances during apartheid that created social inequalities with Black families relegated to lower socio-economic statuses. In this study career choices were heavily influenced by teachers in pre-tertiary schooling, student academic competencies in mathematics and science, and industry practices that included providing bursary funds to only support engineering higher education endeavors, thereby dictating to students from low income households which careers to pursue especially in cases where the absence of such funding meant one would not be able to afford university costs. The academy was not viewed as a place of work seen instead as a transitory space. The image of the academy as made up of older White males also created the perception that it was not a place for Black women. The combination of the factors influencing career choices in school and the image of the academy as an unwelcoming space for Black women explains Black women's absence in South African engineering academia. Postsecondary institutional leaders should work on changing the image of the academy and marketing it as a career option for students in pre-tertiary and postsecondary education. Institutional culture and representation needs to reflect the diverse student population while actively working to ensure all students, academic and administrative staff feels welcome and valued. More importantly financial resources need to be made available and leveraged to support Black African women's education in a bursary-style format to encourage more Black women to follow academic career pathways. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
ProQuest LLC. 789 East Eisenhower Parkway, P.O. Box 1346, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. Tel: 800-521-0600; Web site:
Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: South Africa