Enhancing Equity in STEM

Women and Minorities in STEM

For years, women and minorities in science, engineering, technology, and math (STEM), have faced substantial opposition and challenges in pursuit of a career in these fields.

Many women have been steered against pursuing STEM-based professions in that (historically) they have been considered a “man’s job”. Women have been traditionally expected to remain in more domestic or people-based roles including nursing, teaching, and mothering.

Fortunately, years of racial and gender protests and activism has helped to bridge the gap to introduce more women and minority groups into STEM professions than ever before. Some of the most valuable scientific discoveries have come from minority groups that have faced considerable oppression in entering and being recognized in their fields. Still, our society has much work to do with respect to welcoming more women and minorities in STEM fields.

Ways to Encourage Students to Pursue STEM

I believe that science educators can play a monumental role in their students’ ability to pursue STEM fields. It is incredibly important for educators to value and encourage students.

Below are some ways to encourage ALL students to pursue STEM:

  • Present your students with success statistics of women and minorities in STEM fields
  • Verbally recognize the significance of the accomplishments of women and minorities in STEM
  • Make your students’ lives relatable to the experiences of successful women and minorities in STEM; challenge students to think about the similarities in their lives to those of successful scientists
  • Avoid stereotyping STEM fields and encourage students to keep an open mind about pursuing things they may not have traditionally thought about
  • Create an inclusive learning environment and use culturally responsive practices
  • Remind students that ALL students can and should learn about science

How I will Instill STEM Equity Awareness in the Classroom

Clearly, increasing equity in STEM is an ongoing social justice issue that will not be fixed over night. However, there are things as science educators we can do in our classroom to instill awareness of STEM equity issues and begin to break down the achievement gaps and barriers that have stood in place for so long.

  1. Find Yourself in the Scientist Activity

One activity that could help to push students to pursue STEM fields would be a challenge that requires students to research women and minority scientists and find similarities in their lives, personalities, interests, etc. I think this would be beneficial because it directly relates to the lives of the students and thus the activity will be more interesting from the start. If students begin to see the overlap in their lives, they can see how some ordinary people turned into great scientists.

2. Live Experiences

If possible, organizing a live speaker to come into the classroom and speak about their experiences in the STEM fields can inspire students to want to pursue an occupation in the STEM fields. Particularly, having an underrepresented speaker come into the classroom may help to empower students.

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4 Responses to Enhancing Equity in STEM

  1. kamisem says:

    Hi Riley!
    Thanks for reading my post. First, I would like to give students some independence with an activity like “Find Yourself in the Scientist” so I would probably leave it up to individual discretion who students research given they can justify how the scientist has helped to enhance equity in STEM or overcome social opposition in their career or personal life.

  2. kamisem says:

    Hi Lauren,
    Thanks for reading my post! I do not have any specific speakers in mind yet, but I think the more closely tied the speaker is to the students (i.e. someone who may have grown up in the district I am teaching in or someone who worked to make the latest video game that kids are playing) will absolutely be best to spark some passion in students.

  3. curtisrc says:

    Emilia,
    Great blog post! I really loved how you ended with your tweet that challenges future and current educators to make a stand and come up with ways to encourage STEM for all within the science classroom- very powerful way to end your message. I think your idea regarding “Find yourself in the scientist activity” is a wonderful idea to connect to student’s lives! How exactly would you infuse an activity like this in your classroom? Would students choose a scientist(s) and then find connections, or look to find similarities of an already brought up, particular scientist(s)? Or a different approach you have in mind? Thanks for your post!

  4. Lauren Colliver says:

    Hi Emilia,
    A very informative post about equity in STEM. You make some great suggestions on how to encourage students to pursue stem – I liked your points about avoiding stereotyping and relatability in particular. Inviting a speaker into the classroom is a great way to combine both of those particular points and it can be a powerful way of inspiring students to pursue STEM. Do you have a specific speaker in mind that you might be able to invite (in-person or virtually) into your classroom?

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