By Shalina Chatlani, Education Dive —
Minorities are making waves in STEM, but still face significant challenges in entering the field, experts say
- At June 22 panel hosted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, experts concluded that while minorities are finding greater success in STEM fields, they still overwhelmingly face barriers to entry, in part due to lack of like resources and mentoring, according to recent coverage by Diverse: Issues In Higher Education.
- Dr. Eugene DeLoatch, founding dean of the school of engineering at Morgan State University, Jill Houghton, president and CEO of U.S. Business Leadership Network, and Sarah EchoHawk, CEO of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, and others discussed the topic of diversity in STEM as part of a larger conversation on Crystal Emery’s screening of her film, “Black Women in Medicine,” which showcased the historical obstacles and discrimination many African-American female changemakers faced in entering the medical field.
- Panelists highlighted some of the key issues those leaders in the education space ought to consider while trying to support STEM from the K12 level, into college, and careers. These included the lack of funding and resources available for minorities that want to focus on STEM, the lack of accessibility to technology by both low-income students of color and those with disabilities, and the status of the nation’s low math and science scores in comparison to other developed nations.
While on the surface it may seem like people of color, those with disabilities, and other minority groups have enjoyed greater access to opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, they still actually face significant challenges and barriers to participation in such careers. And, these barriers begin all the way down to the K-12 level, where minority students interested in such subjects are often limited due to subpar teaching at lower tier schools and digital divides that come with inequity in technology accessibility. As students enter universities, those that weren’t exposed to the same resources often afforded to higher-income, white students find themselves behind in basic STEM curriculum — a systemic issue that continues doesn’t bar minorities from entering such fields, but definitely creates greater obstacles for them.
Since the issue affects all levels of education, STEM gaps also presents an opportunity for higher education institutions to work with K-12 educators to achieve progress. The Verizon Minority Male Makers program is an example of this. The program began at four historically black universities and colleges: Morgan State University, North Carolina A&T State University, Jackson State University and Kentucky State University, but now consists of 11 partners. The program matches middle school students with these institutions, and offers them intensive summer training. Beyond such collaboration, however, K-12 administrators, particularly in low-income schools that are finding it difficult to get proper teaching resources for their students, can look toward science education non-profits like NASA, which offers a variety of programs for students of all ages. In many instances, NASA has teamed up with both high schools and colleges to give students the opportunity to actually design, construct, and learn how to launch satellites.