Walking on Gender Tightrope With Multiple Marginalities

Asian International Female Students in STEM Graduate Programs


  • Jae Hoon Lim University of North Carolina at Charlotte, USA https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8167-1866
  • Yi Wang University of North Carolina at Charlotte, USA
  • Tong Wu University of North Carolina at Charlotte, USA
  • Zhi Li University of North Carolina at Charlotte, USA https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5037-3580
  • Ting Sun University of North Carolina at Charlotte, USA




acculturation, female students, international students, STEM students


This phenomenological research explored how Asian female international students (AFISs) understand the role of gender in their program experiences and how they cope with the challenges derived from their multiple marginalities—gender, foreign nationality, and race/ethnicity. Based on in-depth interviews with 21 Asian female international graduate students enrolled in various science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, we analyzed the ideological undercurrents embedded in their genderblind perspectives and examined their coping strategies in the context of STEM disciplines. Our thematic findings illustrate the participants’ multiple marginalities as manifested in the concept of “gender advantage,” and the precarious power dynamics and ironic coping strategies that they adopt in undergraduate teaching contexts. This study suggests that STEM educators in higher education understand the multifaceted struggles of AFISs who inevitably embody multiple marginalities in their graduate programs and provide culturally relevant support and advocacy-based professional mentoring.

Author Biographies

Jae Hoon Lim, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, USA

JAE HOON LIM, PhD, is a Professor in the Educational Research, Measurement, and Evaluation program at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Her research explores the intersection of gender, race, and class in STEM education and highlights the dialogical process of identity construction across various groups of underrepresented minorities in STEM fields.

Yi Wang, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, USA

YI WANG, MA, is a PhD student in the Educational Research, Measurement, and Evaluation program at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Her major research interests lie in the area of STEM transfer students, student engagement, and underserved students in community colleges.

Tong Wu, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, USA

TONG WU, MA, is a PhD student in the Educational Research, Measurement, and Evaluation program at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Her research focuses on educational measurement, program evaluation, and acculturation experiences of international students in the United States.

Zhi Li, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, USA

ZHI LI, M.Ed., is a PhD student in the Educational Research, Measurement, and Evaluation program at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Her major research interests lie in the area of program evaluation, Research on Evaluation (RoE), and Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC) application.

Ting Sun, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, USA

TING SUN, MA, is a PhD candidate in the Educational Research, Measurement, and Evaluation program at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Her major research interests lie in the area of higher education research, writing self-efficacy, and meta-analysis


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How to Cite

Lim, J. H. ., Wang, Y., Wu, T., Li, Z., & Sun, T. (2021). Walking on Gender Tightrope With Multiple Marginalities: Asian International Female Students in STEM Graduate Programs. Journal of International Students, 11(3), 647–665. https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v11i3.2132



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