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"Don't Stop Me Now!": The Perseverance of Women of Color in NASA during the 80s through the 90s (Working Title)

Women of Color's (WOC) accomplishments in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields and at the National A eronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have been highly ignored in U.S. history. Especially unnoticed is the life experience of those who persisted and achieved leadership positions. Nonetheless, in recent years there has been a growing interest in the life experiences of WOC pioneers of the 50s and 60s, such as Katherine G. Johnson, one of the first Black women to work as a mathematician or human computer at NASA. She played a critical role in many memorable NASA missions, including the Space Race, the Apollo
missions and the Space Shuttle missions during the 80s and 90s .


Despite the growing body of literature devoted to WOC STEM pioneers in NASA during the Civil Rights Era, very little is known about the unique experience of those who ventured in to these careers past the 50s and the 60s. Thus, further research is needed to address first hand accounts of WOC's day to day work experience at NASA during the 80s through the 90s. Furthermore, NASA as a workplace has been severely overlooked during this timeframe, especially its institutional efforts to maintain and support WOC in the STEM workforce.

Thus, this doctoral research seeks to fill that void and recount the challenges and resilience of WOC working at NASA during the 80s through the 90s. Also, to evaluate the role that institutional support from NASA might have played in advancing their careers. Critical race theory will serve as a theoretical tool, specifically counternarratives, to analyze the personal experience of WOC. A qualitat ive mixed method will be used based on archival material analysis and oral history interviews. First, the archive research will include U.S. historical records on the WOC workforce, diversity policies, and professional development programs from NASA. Second, oral history interviews will be conducted with fifteen WOC in STEM fields. Recovering the life experiences of WOC during the 80s through 90s can be an invaluable platform to tell their stories and to inspire future generations of WOC in STEM and aerospace careers in general. Also, to account for how institutions like NASA might have offered (or not) the support they needed to succeed.

Cover photo:
On Sept. 12, 1992, the launch day of the STS 47 Spacelab J mission on space shuttle Endeavour, NASA astronaut Mae Jemison waits as her suit technician, Sharon McDougle, performs an unpressurized and pressurized leak check on her spacesuit at the Operations and Checkout Building at Kennedy Space Center.
(Image Credit: NASA ,