Persistence of African American Females in Engineering: The Mathematics Identity Factor

  • Tonya McKoy Tennessee State University
  • Carlos Beane Tennessee State University
  • Michael Oyeteju Tennessee State University
  • Marie Hammond Tennessee State University
  • S. Keith Hargrove Tennessee State University


To continue as global science and technological leaders, the United States is motivated to create a diverse, engineering workforce. One way of diversifying the engineering workforce is to address the disparity of women engineers. Although concerted efforts to improve retention rates of women in engineering are ongoing, women have earned only 5.6% of all undergraduate engineering degrees, with only 1% attributed to African American women (NSF, 2015b). African American women are commonly included in racial or gender-focused studies on persistence; however, few studies assess the effect of multiple identities to persistence. This exploratory study examined the relationship of persistence, measured by intent to persist, to multiple identities (social, professional, and racial) of African American female engineering students. Forward regression analyses were conducted and results indicated that the participant’s mathematical identities were more salient to them than their racial or gender identities. Also, the values these women placed on being an engineer and belonging to the group were principal aspects of their professional identity. Additionally, negative affect and stereotype threat were found significant predictors of intent to persist.

Keywords: women engineers, persistence, identity, African American engineers