March for black women in STEM to take place Saturday, Sept. 30

The march, which was planned in solidarity with national marches for black women, will begin on the steps of Wyatt on Saturday morning

On Saturday, black women in Washington D.C. and across the country will march for racial justice. In solidarity with these events, Dr. Nicole Joseph, assistant professor of mathematics education, will be leading a march from the steps of Wyatt to Stevenson Center. Joseph decided to plan the march after learning about the national event at a recent conference on the experiences of black women and girls.

“I was just so inspired and I said you know I want to come back home to Vanderbilt and see about collaborating with my community to see if people would like to rally around fully examining the experiences of black women and girls in STEM and just stand and march in solidarity to try to disrupt these things,” Joseph said. “[The march] just sort of put itself together, which helps me to know that it’s meant to be for this to happen.”

Unlike the national marches, which will focus broadly on the experiences of black women in America, the Vanderbilt march will specifically look at the experiences of black women and girls in STEM. For Joseph, the subject is personal, as it is not only what she researches but also part of her personal experience growing up. 

“I think what inspires me is that it was me at one point,” Joseph said. “Going through high school and college, I was the only black girl, a lot of times the only black person, in my upper level math classes.”

Joseph’s research explores the barriers black women and girls, particularly in k-12 education, face in STEM and the ways in which they are able to overcome those barriers. According to her findings, support from family, disruption of typical learning environments and resilience strategies are the three big things that keep black girls in STEM fields and help them find success in those spaces.

There’s not a lot out there, and so I’ve been trying my best to work as hard as I can to do as much empirical research to contribute to some of the gaps in the literature and the knowledge of what we understand is happening,” Joseph said. 

The march was planned in conjunction with professors from TSU, Fisk and MTSU. The event will feature both faculty and student speakers.   

“We’re starting at Wyatt, in education, and  we’re going over to the area where Stevenson hall and basically where all of the STEM buildings are to have our program,” Joseph said. “The significance is that these are spaces that traditionally black women and girls have not been a part of, and so we’re trying to educate these faculty, staff, students who are in these spaces around what’s really going on with under representation and inclusion of black women and girls.”

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