SEASON 2: EPISODE 13
Dr. Kimberly A. Scott is a professor of women and gender studies in the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University (ASU) and the founding executive director of ASU’s Center for Gender Equity in Science and Technology. She is also a mom.
When she asked her teenage daughter how school was going, she didn’t expect to hear: “I’d be fine as long as I render myself invisible.” Her daughter’s words served as a stark reminder of the challenges women of color face in spaces that were not designed for them. In this episode,
Amber sits down with Dr. Kimberly A. Scott to discuss the erasure of women of color in public spaces and what she’s doing to fix it.
A legacy of intersectionality: Dr. Scott reflects on her mother’s personal and professional experiences navigating through life as a Black woman in the 40’s. She then shares how intersectionality played a role in her own life — as the first Black woman to integrate her college, then later as a professor at an all-Black institution. At every stage, feelings of invisibility impacted her experiences — an indication to Dr. Scott l that the issues women of color face cannot be simplified to gender or race. Instead, There are several layers to a woman’s identity that determine how she navigates throughout life.
Color and invisibility: Dr. Scott sees intersectionality at play when her daughter, the only Black girl in her school, reveals that she could survive the experience if she “renders herself invisible.” Broken-hearted, Dr. Scott removes her daughter from the school with the knowledge that there is an uphill battle to create spaces where women and girls of color feel a sense of belonging.
Amber shares her stories of invisibility: when she first started her agency, 8 years ago, she chose not to display images of herself or highlight that she was the owner, fearing that people would dismiss the company if they knew it was owned by a Black woman.
Bridging the gap. Becoming a scholar: Dr. Scott is now determined to fix the issues she sees in her own home through scholarship She launched CompuGirls and the Center for Gender Equity in Science and Technology at ASU and most recently, a collaborative partnership with The Kapor Center, the WOC in Computing Collaborative. She looks to technology as a method to change society — focusing on solutions for underrepresented women of color who feel invisible due to their intersecting identities.
The pipeline: Through her team’s research, Dr. Scott identified areas where women of color are left behind. The issues begin in both public and private schools. Teacher bias due to a lack of diversity and inclusion training plays an influential role. Administrators’ sharp punishments towards children of color impact the school to prison pipeline. Hostile environments, in school and at work, are pushing women of color out.
Change requires knowledge and an ability to reach all of the people who are involved in women of color’s journeys: from elementary school to college, throughout careers and on to entrepreneurship.
All women are not treated equally: Broad groupings (i.e. Women, Asian Americans, etc.) mean that some women within those categories are not fully represented. Those that identify with multiple marginalized groups are impacted differently and so is their access to opportunities. Intersectionality isn’t just about race and class, etc. but how those distinctions create barriers to that individual attaining a position of power.
What are you doing today fix the gaps? The existing playing field has never been level, and Dr. Scott doesn’t believe it ever will be. Instead, she suggests looking for ways to create new spaces where women of color can succeed. This means starting new programs, investing in the women via entrepreneurship and partnering with a multitude of audiences (i.e., academics, corporations, policymakers, venture capitalist, etc.) to get access to this data.
She is working with former students to push their research forward and make a change. Together, they are moving beyond the goal of retaining more WOC in the industry to actually building spaces in which they can succeed — creating collaborative research groups across disciplines to have a systemic impact.
Dr. Scott hopes to empower girls and women of color to use the skills they gain to change their communities.
Dr. Kim A. Scott
Kimberly A. Scott is a professor of women and gender studies in the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University (ASU) and the founding executive director of ASU’s Center for Gender Equity in Science and Technology. Founded by Professor Scott, the center is a one-of-a-kind research unit focused on exploring, identifying, and creating innovative scholarship about underrepresented women and girls in STEM.
Having written and successfully won nearly $10 million in grant funding to support research about and programs for women and girls of color in STEM, Scott was named in 2014 as a White House Champion of Change for STEM Access. Since 2018, Scott has been a member of the NSF STEM Education Advisory Panel created to encourage U.S. scientific and technological innovations in education and assembled in consultation with the U.S. Department of Education, NASA, and NOAA.
Scott earned her BA from Smith College in art history and French literature, an MS from Long Island University in curriculum and instruction/elementary education and her EdD from Rutgers University in social and philosophical foundations of education, and completed the high potentials leadership program at Harvard Business School.
Produced by: Kai-Saun Anderson
Music by: Podington Bear - Colocate & Rope Swing
Background photo by: Francesco Ungaro