As everyone in the field is well aware, women and ethnic minorities are not sufficiently represented in STEM careers and in learning programs nationwide. Increasing their participation in a field that is fast becoming an important job provider in this country was the subject of a recent “Creating a Sustainable Commitment to STEM” session at U.S. News & World Report's STEM Solutions Conference in Washington, D.C.
The session was moderated by Christopher Roe, CEO of the California STEM Learning Network. There were speakers from some of the biggest employers of technology related jobs in the country including Chevron, Intel, Texas Instruments and Corning. They made some very salient points regarding a more inclusive participation in STEM:
1. Everyone at the session agreed that bringing more women and minorities into the field made good business sense as well as being the right thing to do. Not only did increased diversity equal increased creativity, but inclusion helped developers and merchandisers to understand the needs of different groups.
2. It’s important to get the kids interested early. Take pains to show your kids that scientists come in all genders and skin tones.
3. Student/Peer group mentoring ... one speaker told of seeing STEM students from high school working with girls still in middle school.
4. Speakers seemed particularly concerned with the fact that many students coming out of schools hoping to enter STEM-dependent fields hadn’t received the education they needed for the jobs because of a lack of available STEM courses. The companies believed that in spite of their willingness to hire more women and minorities, this lack of educated workers was not something that they could address themselves. More effort had to be put into STEM learning inside the schools, and as one speaker said, “That’s up to the legislature."
A lack of diversity in the technology field remains a problem and as yet it is unclear what can -- or will -- be done to change that. The recent “Creating a Sustainable Commitment to STEM” session at U.S. News & World Report's STEM Solutions Conference in Washington, D.C. brought together a number of interested parties from the world of business technology to discuss ways and means to increase the participation of women and minorities. A number of ideas were advanced, but the one heard everywhere pointed out that real life STEM learning requires more school funding -- and only the state legislatures can do that!