Employment in science, technology, engineering, and math occupations has grown – outpacing overall job growth across the nation. However, the growth of diversity in STEM has not kept up with that same pace. Since 1990, STEM employment has grown from 9.7 million jobs to 17.3 million jobs. That being said, African Americans and LatinX/Hispanics are underrepresented in the STEM field, in comparison to their population in the United States workforce. The true challenge with this is that STEM touches on a widespread of industries such as healthcare, education, criminal justice, business, automotive, and many more. However, the voices of those impacted by the variety of industries are not at the table helping to build the STEM products that will impact their communities.
80% of U.S. citizens view racial and ethnic diversity in the workplace as at least somewhat important. However, the diversity in STEM has not kept up with the growth of STEM jobs or the population. 45% of U.S. citizens say that diversity in the workplace provides other perspectives that contribute to the overall success of companies and organizations. This rings true when you think about the snafus that have come to light over the years about facial recognition with mobile devices, uses of technology in policing, and the ability to support developing countries with the advancements of STEM.
In 2016, African Americans and LatinX/Hispanics made up 27% of the overall U.S. workforce but together they made up only 16% of individuals employed in a STEM job. Some of the causes for this could be a lack of representative mentors, limited access to advanced science courses, or socioeconomic factors that may impact their communities. However, the reason we can all agree is not the case is one of interest. Young scholars are interested in STEM but need the support, guidance, and encouragement to not only start but continue through their degree programs to enter the fields.
Boosting STEM education opportunities for young women globally is one critical way that the U.S. can promote women’s equality, as well as economic development, around the world.Kristen Soltis Anderson
In the broad lense of the STEM workforce, women make up 50% of all United States workers in STEM. However, women are a majority in healthcare practioners and technicians but are underrepresented in computer and engineering roles in STEM. Also, the number of women earning computer science degrees in the U.S. has gone down by 12% since 1991. Historically, the face of STEM has been male, specifically white male, which can cause a disconnect for representation when women explore whether or not they would like to enter the STEM field. It can create a disconnect and biases when male educators work towards teaching female students in STEM.
With that being said, the number of women who hold advanced degrees in STEM has actually increased over the years. However, the lack of representation of women in STEM has real-world financial implications since STEM jobs have relatively high earnings compared with many non-STEM jobs. If you compare a STEM worker with a non-STEM worker that has an equivalent degree level, the STEM worker, on average, out earns their non-STEM worker counterpart. Furthermore, women in STEM occupations tend to be paid less than men working in STEM. One factor to the 72% gender earnings gap is partly because men and women in the STEM workforce tend to work in different occupational subgroups.
Nonetheless, when it comes to diversity in STEM, we have the opportunity to either encourage aggressive growth of women participating in high earning STEM fields or we can continue the narrative of lack of representation. The World Academy for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (WAIE) chooses to take the aggressive approach when it comes to diversity in STEM. Our women young scholars at a base level are educated in data analytics and computer science. They are placed in internships and work with women educators and professionals of color to support their growth in STREAM occupations.
Based on 2019 employment statistics for the STEM field, people of color are still underrepresented as they account for less than 30% of employees. One major factor to this is that youth of color are underrepresented in multiple levels of education and field of work in STEM fields. As stated by Master’s in Data Science “A study conducted in 2017 based on census data shows that black, Latinx and Native Americans constituted 31% of science and engineering professionals. Meanwhile, that demographic only represented 21% of the total bachelor’s degree recipients in science and engineering, and 13% of the total recipients of doctoral degrees.”
Currently, the education of people of color in STEM is not equivalent to the number of people actually in the workforce. This means the demographics of those in the workforce will either remain stagnant, have slow growth, or decline as older STEM employees of color retire or leave the industry. We, as a community, must support and encourage more youth of color in obtaining advanced STEM degrees in order to increase the number of employees of color in STEM.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that by 2045 the population will become “minority white.” However, the current outlook for people of color in STEM holds a lack of representation for those who will be an “ethnic majority” by 2045. A lack of a feeling of belonging is a major consideration for youth of color interested in the STEM field. A sense of belonging helps students continue and perserve through their studies. It is important to create communities and groups for young scholars where they can belong and be supported by not only the faculty and staff in STEM but also their fellow peers and industry mentors..
WAIE is built on the foundation of connecting faculty and staff of color with young scholars of color. As with our young women, we provide all of our young scholars access to individuals in the industry who can engage with them, provide representation, and support them in navigating life after WAIE in the field of STEM. Also, our young scholars of color participate in internships and curriculum that encourages real-world experiences in STREAM. Our young scholars will not only learn about STREAM but also create real solutions to world challenges they are passionate about creating a change around.