Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Arts




Puvirajah, Anton


This study examines the experiences of five South Asian women who aspire for careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) at the University of Western Ontario. It also analyzes the ways in which cultural and societal experiences shape their pursuit of a STEM degree. The research questions being investigated through this study are: (1) How has a South Asian woman’s experiences in the home influenced their own perception of education? (2) What types of experiences have South Asian women had in different levels of schooling? (3) How does cultural identity inform the experiences of South Asian women in their education and social lives? Data was collected through semi-structured interviews. The findings are presented through qualitative narrative storytelling The findings discussed the extent to which the participants’ identities were constructed through home and school life, as well as ideas of educational significance in their cultures.

Summary for Lay Audience

Despite the growing demand for a STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) educated workforce, women, and more specifically minoritized women continue to be underrepresented in various STEM related fields. The underrepresentation is even more prevalent at more senior level and leadership-oriented STEM positions. For cultural, historical, social, familial, and other reasons women, especially those of minoritized races continue to be geared away from STEM (Ong et al., 2011; Burger, 2012). While many studies have focused on various aspects of representation of women in STEM, there is very limited research literature examining experiences of minoritized women of immigrant background in STEM. Additionally, current research about minoritized women in STEM does not account for the oftentimes unique cultural and societal factors that specifically focus on South Asian women. Using intersectional feminism and diasporic identities as lenses this study examines through narrative research, five female South Asian undergraduate students’ personal experiences and perspectives on societal and cultural factors shaping their pursuit of a STEM degree. The study is anticipated to shed light on tensions and supports of such factors as family, culture, religion, and socialization for charting a course toward STEM studies and subsequently a career in STEM. Stories of the five students are presented and interpretations are made using the lens of intersectional feminism to deconstruct and discuss how gender along with race, class, ethnicity, and other single axis identities (Pande, 2018) influence the participants’ lived experiences as a South Asian woman pursuing a STEM degree. Additionally, interpretations are shared of how diasporic identities were constructed by the participants. Inductive and deductive approaches are also used to draw thematic links between participants’ stories. The study is of scientific significance as it adds to the scant literature that exists within the area of South Asian immigrant women’s intersectionalized experiences in STEM. Additionally, the study has applied significance in that student support and career/college counselling personnel and STEM and other educators at high schools and post-secondary institutions can be better informed to support STEM aspirations of (South Asian) immigrant women.