Why are fewer minorities employed in STEM occupations?

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by Tim Yetzina, Senior Supervising Editor, Science

While STEM employment is increasing, minority representation is decreasing. In an article that highlights many of the issues people of color in the STEM industry face, Paulette Delgado reports: “Since 1990, STEM employment has increased 79%, with computing being the fastest growing area at 338%.” Given the immense growth in the area, one might expect higher levels of employment for African American STEM graduates.

Kevin Bushweller notes similar findings in a recent EdWeek Market Brief report (may require subscriber login): “Only 7 percent of the people who earn STEM degrees are Black, according to the most recent federal data” and “the percentage of Black people working in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics drops even lower.” Bushweller interviews John Urschel, a former professional football player and PhD candidate at MIT in mathematics, about his work to increase the number of students of color in STEM fields.

Urschel, who is Black, recounts that from an early age his mother was adamant that his future path be a result of something other than his skin color, where he grew up, or a subsequent lack of resources. He sees access to resources and being supported with those resources as key to growing a student’s confidence in STEM fundamentals. In his opinion, when weighing the merits of innate talent versus more resources, having more resources is a better predictor of future success. He also emphasizes meeting students where they are and working with them to develop the resiliency needed to put in the hard work involved in STEM. Finally, Urschel’s advice for educators is that parents have access to educational materials. This means that parents should have access or be able to see what their kids are studying, and, perhaps, step out how the concepts are being taught.

At Westchester Education Services, we are committed to helping our customers create content that meets the needs of all students. To that end, we’ve changed our recruiting and staffing processes to ensure that our teams give voice to historically underrepresented minorities in all subjects, including STEM. To learn more about our STEM team, our DEI work, or our culturally responsive education reviews, visit our website.

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