Date of Award

Fall 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Director

Debra A. Major

Committee Member

Xiaixiao Hu

Committee Member

Holly Gaff


Since the 1980s, disciplines such as psychology and sociology have discussed the construct of positive marginality. Positive marginality describes the perception that belonging to a non-dominant cultural or demographic group can be advantageous rather than oppressing. To date, research on positive marginality has explored the construct in a qualitative manner across a number of demographic groups (e.g., Jewish women in social sciences, African American women in predominantly Caucasian workplaces). Because women are largely underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, the current research examined positive marginality in a STEM context. This research advances the existing understanding of positive marginality through two studies. Study 1 tested the psychometric properties of a new measure of positive marginality. A qualitative pilot study informed the generation of a measure of positive marginality which was administered to a sample of 105 sophomore and junior STEM majors (Study 1A) and a sample of 433 women working in STEM occupations (Study 1B). Exploratory factor analyses were conducted in Study 1A and 1B as well as a confirmatory factor analysis in Study 1B to test a hypothesized 3-factor structure of positive marginality. Results of Study 1 supported a single-factor structure of positive marginality. Study 2 identified and assessed a partial nomological network of the unidimensional construct among women working in STEM occupations. Specifically, a sample of 313 women working in STEM occupations were surveyed at two time points on hypothesized antecedents and outcomes of positive marginality. Structural equation modeling suggested support for core self-evaluations, need for achievement, and domain identification as antecedents of positive marginality; career satisfaction and persistence intentions were supported as outcomes of positive marginality for women in STEM. Together, these studies provide support for the relevance of positive marginality to women pursuing STEM careers and demonstrate the relationship between positive marginality and individual differences and career outcomes. Implications for theory, practice, and future research are discussed.


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