Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professionals are on the forefront of innovation, driving advancements in our everyday lives.
However, many groups continue to be underrepresented across the STEM landscape. In April 2021, a Pew Research Center study of federal labor and education trends over the last decade uncovered the significance of the racial and gender gaps in STEM representation.
Here is a look at some of the current statistics:
- Black people make up 11% of the workforce, but only 9% of STEM employees.
- Latinx people comprise 16% of the workforce, but a mere 7% of STEM workers.
- Native Americans and Alaskan Natives make up just 0.2% of the STEM workforce.
- Asian women earned only 5.3% of bachelor’s degrees across all STEM fields.
The racial and gender earnings gaps among STEM workers are also substantial and have recently increased. According to the Pew Research Center study, the earnings among Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and female STEM workers are significantly lower than the median earnings of white male workers in the field.
Factors That Affect Diversity in STEM
In order to encourage underrepresented communities to pursue STEM career paths, it is important to look at the reasons behind this underrepresentation. There are many contributing factors, but research suggests that bias and discrimination in STEM could be driving minority students away from the field.
Researchers from the University of Memphis found that students tend to avoid or switch majors based on social factors. This indicates that students gravitate toward majors where they see representation from groups they identify with. Trey Moore, a contributor for Forbes notes, “From my experience talking to youth about STEM careers, a lot of them don’t see it as a viable career option based solely on the fact that they don’t personally know any minority scientists.”
Another factor may be stereotypes and media portrayals. According to a report by The Lyda Hill Foundation, in partnership with The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, the vast majority of STEM characters in entertainment media were white (71.2%), while fewer were Black (16.7%), Asian/Asian-American (5.6%), Latinx (3.9%), and Middle Eastern (1.7%). Men also outnumbered women nearly 2-to-1.
The Importance of Diversity in STEM
According to McKinsey & Company, businesses with diverse workplaces financially outperform those lacking diversity. Organizations with a more diverse executive management team are more likely to achieve above-average profits. Diversity also gives organizations a competitive advantage in attracting top talent, allowing them to attract a wider pool of candidates.
Furthermore, as companies seek better ways to reach their customers in the global market, it becomes increasingly important to have their workforce reflect their users. According to Forbes, a homogenized company will further marginalize groups of people, whereas those with a diverse staff might be better positioned to market themselves to underrepresented community groups that make up a considerable percentage of their potential customer base.
Free STEM Resources and Opportunities for BIPOC and AAPI in STEM
Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and Asian tech professionals are crucial to an inclusive and productive workforce. While there are structural barriers to entry in these fields that must be addressed at the systemic level, there are still opportunities for individuals to break in to the tech industry. Since the experiences and realities across different racial, ethnic, and gender groups are complex and unique, here is a list of free resources broken down by group to help foster professional growth and development for members of these underrepresented students and professionals.
STEM Resources for: