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.
- 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.