Cultural negotiations of Indian women in U.S. engineering classrooms
by ADVANCE-Purdue on Mar 25, 2011
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Almost 700,000 international students enrolled in U.S. universities and colleges in 2009; nearly 44% of those students came from China, India, and South Korea, and students from India represented 15% ...
Almost 700,000 international students enrolled in U.S. universities and colleges in 2009; nearly 44% of those students came from China, India, and South Korea, and students from India represented 15% of international student enrollment. The majority (65%) of Indian students study at the graduate level, and many enroll in science and engineering (S&E) programs. Approximately 1/3 of international students are women, and about 25,000 female students are from India. What do we know about women from India preparing for engineering careers? In this project we examine the experiences of Indian women engineers in the gendered organizational contexts of U.S. engineering programs, using the lens of liminality theory to explore cultural negotiations and transitions. Indian women engineers are uniquely positioned in U.S classrooms: they negotiate a wide variety of identity struggles in India, due to the patriarchal society, which poses barriers through structural and societal pressures to girls in the context of education. Furthermore, when these women enter U.S. engineering programs, they face a culture of highly masculine organizational space that imposes its own set of patriarchal practices. To understand the identity restructuring and negotiations within the framework of liminality, we co-construct the narratives of Indian engineering women in US classrooms at the intersections of competing classroom and national cultures. Based upon interviews with women from India, we propose that the culture of origin and the culture of destination are not mutually exclusive, but instead occupy simultaneous spaces in the life of Indian women engineers, playing out an important role in organizational negotiations. The theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed.
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