A Guide for Minorities in STEM: Increasing Workplace Diversity
March 13, 2020
STEM is a collective curriculum based on science, technology, engineering and math. STEM education is an interdisciplinary approach that combines facets of each of its corresponding subjects and integrates them into a cohesive learning opportunity. The curriculum for STEM was created to help develop and disseminate comprehension and expertise that typically carry social, economic and personal benefits.
While the idea and benefits of the STEM curriculum are novel, it does not impact each demographic in the same way. For example, in the fields of computer engineering and computer science, there is a substantial disparity between minorities and their counterparts. Of the 5 million employed workers in the computing field, minorities only account for about 30% of employees, and that number includes women as well as ethnic minorities.
Unfortunately, there exists a multitude of impediments that may make post-secondary education and enterprising applications more complicated for underrepresented minorities. A review of available data reveals that minorities are underrepresented at just about any level of education and field of work in STEM fields.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that by 2045 the population will become “minority white.” It is important to address the barriers for underrepresented minorities, as the majority of the workforce is projected to be minority driven by mid-century. Focusing on policy solutions to the needs of the population will become increasingly important, particularly if the U.S. is to compete with foreign countries as skills related to STEM become more necessary.
Biases Faced By Minority College Students in STEM
Minority students may encounter barriers in their college careers, and perhaps even more so specifically in STEM programs. STEM programs and careers tend to have the highest race and gender gaps. Discrepancies in representation alone can create barriers that inhibit students from participating in higher education at optimal levels.
Social belonging: Minorities may have a hard time associating with STEM culture as the enrollment rate and representation of ethnically diverse groups and genders are not equitable. Associating with different demographics and cultural majorities may feel more challenging for these groups.
Disparities in affordability: Disparities in wealth can limit accessibility to pay for college. Minority students, particularly those of color, may have to work while attending college in order to afford basic necessities.
Diversity offices: These offices can go by different names depending on the college. They are meant to assist in providing educational and counseling services to their undergraduate minority population. Diversity offices are a great tool to have to help overcome challenges associated with obtaining a degree and overall education.
Multicultural clubs and organizations: Commonly found across a wide range of colleges, these resources are a great way to network and discuss issues with people who may have similar interests. Examples might include cultural student unions, cultural interest sororities and fraternities, clubs dedicated to cultural interest, and cultural centers aimed at uniting specific demographics.
Minority statistics: The National Center for Education Statistics provides statistics about the diversity of colleges. Statistics relating to student and faculty diversity are provided for post-secondary educational institutions which may help influence decisions about which college to attend.
Practical research experience: Internships, summer camps and research funding are opportunities for any of the student populace to apply for. These resources are some of the best ways to help gain experience and facilitate the transition between college and working a job.
Educational student services: Study halls, tutoring and workshops are available to everyone. Taking advantage of these tools can help form connections and enhance understanding of materials.
Scholarships for Minorities in STEM
There are scholarships targeted toward minorities studying STEM majors. These scholarships are intended to assist the transition of minority students into higher education. It is usually recommended to apply to as many scholarships as possible, as there is no penalty for application. Some great scholarship opportunities include:
Civil Engineering: ASDSO; $5,000-1,0000, due 03/31/20. Apply online.
Graduate Engineers: GFSD; $20,000-$26,000, due 11/30/20. Apply online.
Scholarships for Native Alaskan and American Indians: The American Indian College Fund is a collective of scholarship funds designed to designate those of American Indian and Native Alaskan descent financial aid for college.