Is Diversity in STEM Careers Getting Any Better?

For anyone who has ever been involved in a science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) field, chances are it’s been easy to see a severe lack of diversity. White and asian males have dominated STEM fields for years and the numbers tell us there is very little improvement in the making. An article from PBS listed several significant statistics. The five year graduation rate among all racial and ethnic groups are up to 20% lower for STEM majors (Newkirk, “Boosting Science with Diversity). Additionally, according to the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute, among students who finish their STEM majors, white and Asian students had five-year graduation rates of 33% and 42%, respectively, as compared with 22%, 18%, and 19% for Latino, Black, and Native American students. Even if they do end up graduating, students of color are much less likely to end up in STEM fields, especially women (Newkirk, “Boosting Science with Diversity).

Surely, there must be a reason for white and asian males being able to outdo minorities for STEM related careers. A significant amount of evidence tells us that this is due to a lack of STEM focused classes and opportunities being provided to students in impoverished schools. And many of these schools hold large proportions of colored students to white students. This drastically reduces the potential that gives minorities the ability to succeed in a STEM career.

This lack of diversity or lack of opportunity goes beyond just morals. Enhancing diversity in the scientific community can lead to long-term economic growth and global competitiveness (Gibbs, “Diversity in STEM”). If you think about the huge number of students who make up the impoverished sector you can begin to realize the talent that may be going to waste. Many students who may develop into bright scientists one day perhaps are not getting the opportunity to do so due to the lack of STEM focused classes and activities in school. Imagine the enormous pool of untapped potential that could be harnessed to increase global academic achievements, discoveries, and overall competitiveness in the sciences as well as contribute to economic growth.

Unfortunately, this is a large scale problem which demands a large scale of attention in order to fix; however, there are ways to help improve the situation. As the demographics of the country—and student bodies—change Newkirk stresses that by encouraging racial, ethnic, and gender diversity, we keep people moving into careers that rely heavily on science, technology, engineering, and math. It takes little steps, but one day these little steps can lead to positive, substantial improvement. Project Scifi encourages students with less opportunity to explore the sciences by supplying classrooms with lab coats and other resources foster scientific growth and interest. If you share similar values and beliefs with us be sure to check out our website at projectscifi.org and to follow us on social media!

 

Sources:

Gibbs, Jr. Kenneth. “Diversity in STEM: What It Is and Why It Matters.” Scientific American Blog Network, 10 Sept. 2014.

Newkirk, Vann. “Boosting Science with Diversity.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 3 Mar. 2016.

Featured image from: start-engineering.com