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Theoretical Framework

The leadership labyrinth model (Eagly & Carli, 2007) undergirds this study. The labyrinth resembles the difficulties and problems that women face to become leaders (Eagly & Carli, 2007). A leader, according to Eagly and Carli (2007), is a “person who exercises authority over other people" (p. 8), who can influence and motivate others, and who helps with the organization and coordination of a given task. The occupation of leadership positions has not reached women and men equally, not even in modern nations (Kark & Eagly; 2010). In addition, some ethnicities such as Whites remain overrepresented in leadership positions across the globe (Feagin, 2013).

In this regard, Eagly and Chin (2010) argue the importance of the inter- sectionality of race and ethnicity' when it comes to adopting a leadership style, which often triggers discrimination against minoritized populations. Therefore, individuals’ leadership is not only' strongly shaped by' their ethnicity but also influenced by their gender. Kark and Eagly' (2010) went further by' pointing out how minorities have the advantage of considering different perspectives when it comes to leading, including those of the majority. In particular, flexibility' and the ability' to negotiate are two important skills that women as minorities learn in their journey' to become leaders (Kark & Eagly, 2010). In addition to gender, Latinas encounter social pressure to adopt a leadership approach aligned with the dominant group leadership traits (Eagly & Chin, 2010), especially in contexts where Latinas are usually not considered leaders (Eagly; 2007).

Furthermore, Latinas’ leadership is important when it comes to using cultural concepts and knowledge along with strong advocacy for others (Eagly & Chin, 2010). Therefore, the leadership labyrinth model helps explain Latina college students’ difficulties and abilities to lead—for instance, highlighting the special skills of women’s leadership, whose ability to lead includes a more collaborative approach (Eagly, 2007). In some cases, women’s commitment and actions go beyond their leadership functions, as they often develop a friendship with followers or become their mentors. The aforementioned example makes clear the difference between women’s and men’s leadership approaches (Eagly, 2007).


The method of this qualitative research consists of using a case study approach (Yin, 2009) at two Hispanic-serving Institutions (HSIs). The study included ten Latina undergraduate students pursuing STEM majors to examine the type of activities, if any, Latinas perform that show leadership styles in STEM male-dominated disciplines. A purposeful sample was utilized, and the selection criteria to participate in the study were as follows: (1) Latina undergraduate student; (2) enrolled in their senior year; (3) pursuing chemistry, computer science, electrical engineering, geology, mathematics, mechanical engineering, or physics; and (4) attending one of the two selected HSIs. These two HSIs were selected due to similar patterns in enrolling a large number of Latinas, but they both had a critical underrepresentation of Latinas in the aforementioned majors. Data triangulation consisted of interviews with Latina college students, demographics sheets, observations from academic settings, and analysis of documents of Latinas’ academic performance at these two research sites (Erlandson, Harris, Skipper, & Allen, 1993; Lincoln & Guba, 1985).

Data Collection

To collect data, a semi-structured interview protocol was employed with participants. Interviews were conducted at students’respective university libraries throughout the summer and fall of 2018. In addition, the primary researcher maintained a reflexive journal during the time of data collection and data analysis to document observations, thoughts, logistic changes, and unexpected setbacks (Glesne, 2011). Lastly, the document analysis, which included institutional statistics of Latinas’ persistence, helped in understanding Latinas’ intentions to major in STEM, persistence in the STEM programs, and close degree attainment. Participants’ identification was confidential; hence, students self-selected pseudonyms for the study.

Table 10.1 Themes and Categories of the Study.


Coming Out of the Shadows

Embracing Their Identity as Women and Latinas


Gaining visibility Building a social network

Fighting to be heard Feeling proud of who they are

Data Analysis

Data were examined through inductive analysis (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). Interview data were transcribed verbatim, yielding the identification of units of data with Dedoose, an online platform to help in qualitative data analysis. Next, the process of codification encompassed sorting data units multiple times until a framework of themes and categories emerged (Glesne, 2011). The principal researcher then categorized information from all ten interviews under categories, which attached to themes. Table 10.1 shows the themes and categories that emerged from data analysis.


In qualitative inquiry, researchers should address aspects such as confidence in the findings, applicability in other settings, consistency to repeat the study, and impartiality of findings (Lincoln & Guba, 1985) to assure the trustworthiness in the study. Therefore, the following techniques guarantee the study’s reliability'. To ensure credibility, member checks included participants’ involvement, as each of them had an opportunity to review and edit her interview transcript. In addition, observations conducted at research site facilities and document analysis helped in the triangulation of data. To ensure transferability, demographic sheets provided thick description (Lincoln & Guba, 1985) of participants, and purposeful sampling helped determine the selection criteria, which could lead researchers to recruit a similar group of participants. To ensure dependability and confirmability, a reflexive journal employed throughout the study was utilized as a self-reflective instrument and a tool to make decisions regarding the study.

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