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Research and theoretical papers
Published: 25-07-2023

Styling STEM: How African American Women Cosmetologists Can Help to Reimagine STEM Education

University of California San Diego
Michigan State University
Michigan State University
Abrookin Career and Technical Center
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
University of Michigan
University of Michigan
STEM education cosmetology African American women Black feminist epistemology Black hair care community-centered STEM


This paper analyzes interviews with African American women cosmetologists who collaborated in designing and implementing a series of community-centered science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education programs to support broadening the participation of Black children in those fields. These collaborations used technologies and media as bridges between STEM knowledge as it appears in schools and STEM knowledge as it has been and is communicated, produced, and used by Black hair care experts. We discuss how acknowledging these experts as knowledge producers who have unique pedagogical expertise not only provides new ways for reimagining STEM fields for Black children, but also helps to acknowledge STEM's existing and generative presence in Black communities. Our findings reveal three ways that this group of African American cosmetologists helped reimagine STEM education: 1) STEM as personal and situated; 2) STEM as a blend of public and community institutions and 3) STEM as community.

How to Cite

Okonkwo, H., Lachney, M., Allen Kuyenga, M. C., Love, L., Babbitt, W., Bennett, A., & Eglash, R. (2023). Styling STEM: How African American Women Cosmetologists Can Help to Reimagine STEM Education. International Journal of Gender, Science and Technology, 15(1), 1–23. Retrieved from