The inequity in STEM is shocking and we as educators have the unique opportunity to attack this problem and inspire our future generation to pursue STEM.
What is Equity?
Equality and equity are not the same thing. To understand the goal of this post – equity in STEM encouragement – we must first understand the terms. Equity means there is access to the same resources – fairness. Equality means everyone has the same thing – sameness. SMART Reading made a brilliant graphic to illustrate this idea.
Our goal as educators should be to give all of our students, no matter their gender, racial, or ethnic identity the access to the same opportunities that can be found in STEM.
What is the current status of women and minorities in STEM?
Women and minority populations are currently extremely underrepresented in STEM. According to the Pew Research Center, people who identify as Black and Hispanic are the LOWEST represented in STEM careers.
There is an extremely level of untapped potential and talent because of inequity of access of STEM opportunities for minority populations. As you can see above, the employment of Black and Hispanic populations in STEM is staggeringly low.
This inequity can also be seen, for example, of women that receive degrees in mathematics or statistics, according to an NSF/NCSES research study.
The numbers of women pursuing degrees in mathematics and statistics are decreasing, not only in terms of receiving an advanced degree, but they are fewer women pursuing these degrees every ten years. This decline is saddening, and as educators, we need to try to change this.
How do we equitably encourage STEM?
The first way that I propose that we encourage STEM is through mentorship programs. Blow you will find a video that Princeton University put out concerning the power of mentors in helping students succeed in STEM.
In the classroom:
As a future educator, I want to develop a mentorship program for my students.
- Connecting younger students with other students who have been successful in my classes previously.
- Connecting to the greater community and calling upon different people within the field of Chemistry, for instance, that can connect with my students.
- Every month or every other week, there could be
a “Connection Friday”
- This day students and their mentors can come together.
- They can choose to get help on homework, ask each other questions, or just talk about life.
Giving students the connections to people to help them and serve as a guide is invaluable for encouragement to stay within STEM.
The second way that I propose that we equitably encourage STEM is through introducing new extracurricular programing specifically designed for different populations and STEM involvement.
Eastern Michigan University created, Digital Divas. This after school program allowed for high school girls, who were interested in STEM, to get together and travel to the university’s campus and participate in experiments and mentorship with university women.
In the classroom:
As an educator in STEM, I can help to be an advisor and advocate for afterschool clubs like Digital Divas. In this example I will be talking about a Women in Science Group. As an educator/advisor I would…
- Help identify and recruit students who would appreciate and benefit from the programing
- Help apply for different grants and funding to allow for different experiments and activities to be completed within the group
- Use personal connections with neighboring universities and business to bring the girls opportunities to network and gain perspectives outside of their own “worlds”
Listed below are some resources to aid in your further journey in understanding the importance of why educators need to push to make STEM opportunity equitable to all!