The Top 5 Ways to Promote Diversity in STEMFebruary 16, 2022
Imagine a world where the workforce was full of people with diverse backgrounds. Where talented people from all walks of life felt empowered to share their unique gifts every day in their workplace. Where people could come together and collaborate, drawing inspiration from each other’s different perspectives. Imagine what scientific breakthroughs could be possible with the depth and richness of more diverse minds combined.
It’s possible—but we have some work to do.
There is so much untapped potential when it comes to the STEM workforce. In the US today, unfortunately, the STEM workforce still lacks diversity for underrepresented groups, but we can change that.
What steps can we take now to empower people with diverse backgrounds to pursue careers in STEM? Particularly careers in science, technology, engineering, and math?
Learn the top 5 ways to increase diversity in the STEM workforce today.
How To Spark An Interest in STEM
It all starts by sparking an interest in STEM and encouraging students to explore the many possibilities that are available to them in science, technology, engineering, and math.
How do you do that?
Create an empowering & safe environment
First, create a safe environment for students to learn and explore with confidence. Underrepresented students have unique perspectives and lived experiences to bring to the table, so it’s important to foster a safe environment in the classroom or at an after-school program where they feel comfortable and free to develop their talents. The ideal environment should feel open, welcoming, non-judgmental, and create a sense of belonging.
Encourage career exploration
Once students feel confident and comfortable with the concept of STEM as a whole, the next step is empowering them to discover potential career options at local STEM-driven companies. Students who are gifted in STEM subjects in school may not necessarily be focused on these areas of study simply because they aren’t aware of the options out there. STEM roles continue to be some of the highest paying careers, so spreading the word about the many possibilities is essential when encouraging students with diverse backgrounds to go out in the world and reach for the stars.
Share success stories
Next, share success stories. Lift the voices and journeys of successful STEM professionals who have similar life experiences, backgrounds, and interests. Invite a guest speaker to class to share their path and how they overcame obstacles. Make sure they share the adversity they faced as well as any advice they have on how to handle the challenges that may arise. Introduce students to local science and technologies companies through field trips and connect them to mentors that will empower them over time and illuminate a path into a career in STEM.
Why Do Students Leave STEM Majors?
The good news is there is no lack of underrepresented students who enter STEM majors, according to a recent study. The bad news is that a large percentage of these students switch majors before finishing school.
This may be due to poor foundations in math and science, reports the University of Wisconsin. Many students may not have the strongest educational foundation in high school, so once they enter college, they’re unprepared and jump ship rather than stay with it. One way to counteract this problem is to encourage students to join a science or math club, find a tutor, or reach out to their teachers directly early on to get the help they need.
Lack of role models
As mentioned earlier, role models are key. They help lead the way and walk alongside students when they’re feeling discouraged. Connecting students to role models might seem difficult at first, but with some time and effort, it is definitely possible and the impact is tremendous.
Companies can also incorporate a mentorship program when connecting new hires to their company culture. Finding experienced workers who encourage, guide, and embolden new employees helps develop confidence that can lead to more growth.
5 Ways to Promote Diversity in STEM
1. Look for the STEM “spark.” Does a student you know have an interest in STEM? It could be anything from reading science fiction books to being interested in the brain. Look at interests and giftings, and encourage them to pursue their passions. Also, see who takes opportunities in school to connect to science, technology, engineering, and math. For example, if a student chooses to write about a STEM-related topic for a writing assignment, follow up with them and ask about their interests. Encourage them to explore more.
2. Have a list of resources. Next, have a go-to list of places or people to direct underrepresented students who are interested in learning more about STEM. Look for interactive easy-to-follow curriculums online, books, TV shows, resources, or even coding games or other activities. There are a variety of fun and engaging ways to do this.
3. Cultivate a network. Create a STEM network. Connect with professionals working in STEM fields. Reach out to them to ask if they would be willing to mentor students. Keep a pulse on any STEM-related events in your area that could be of interest to students.
4. Start early. The earlier you can empower students to feel confident and excited about STEM topics, the better. Don’t wait until the end of high school to educate students about the career opportunities or college majors that are available. It’s never too early to plant the seed for future academic success in STEM.
5. Provide real-life examples. Sometimes science, math, computer science, and engineering can seem daunting and overwhelming in the classroom. Students may not know where to start when they start to think about their potential future careers. To change this, make these topics real and relatable. Show them how a complex math problem could relate to a real-life situation. Explain how we are affected by science every day. These practical applications and real-world examples are a key way to illuminate the many ways students could use these subjects in the real world.
Read more suggestions about how to promote diversity in STEM here. The future of STEM can only shine brighter with more diverse minds painting the landscape together.
At SD2, our mission is to empower tomorrow’s STEM leaders today by connecting these students to the power of STEM, providing them with access to education, mentorship, and the resources they need to lead tomorrow’s workforce.
Learn more on our website or contact us.