The Importance of Minority Representation in STEM
Let's face it, the grotesque fact is that there is a lack of minorities holding positions in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).
I recognize I am privileged because I am a Black Woman at a Division 1 research institution with resources and the ability to collaborate with other accomplished and well-established experts in their field. But I know this is not the reality for some Minority Serving Institutions (MSI). There is a huge disparity against research at MSIs that can influence the funding rate and availability of their proposed work. Although the science can be sound, a common criticism of funding agencies is whether the grant writer has the capability to conduct the research. And as a result, the largest grants are consistently awarded to larger institutions with a predominantly white demographic. Where do the careers of the underfunded and "criticized" scientists go? Research is a publish or perish culture.
Who controls the pool of minorities that make it into the STEM fields? On one hand, one could make a strong argument that Higher Education Institutions control how many minorities make it. After all, to get into a STEM field, one often needs credentials from an intuition of higher education. But if you look at the demographics of students who are accepted and who successfully complete a STEM program in pursuit of a higher education degree, minorities are under admitted and under graduated. This seems to indicate an recruitment and admissions issue. Some universities and colleges, however, have complained about the quality of students admitted to their institution which brings me to the second argument. Perhaps the fault lays with the K-12 education system?
It's no secret that children in low-income neighborhoods do not receive the same level of quality education as children in neighborhoods who are well off. In some areas, an ever-changing set of conflicting expectations designed to assess the knowledgebase of students in counties at the state and local levels leave students at a disadvantage. This coupled with poor administrative management of the quality of teachers hired for classrooms in low-income neighborhoods also leaves students at a disadvantage. THE FACT IS LACK OF MINORITY REPRESENTATION IN STEM IS FAULTED AT ALL LEVELS OF EDUCATION AND ALSO LIES WITH THE GOVERNMENT.
Systemic racism and xenophobia are societal issues that influence the allocation of resources and the quality of education given to low-income and minority neighborhoods. I recognize this as a Black Woman hoping to make it in STEM. But the only way we can ensure minorities are employed in STEM is through education reform and accepting more students through the admission process for colleges and universities. I know a lot of higher education institutions are concerned about the quality of the students admitted, but even I know comparing student performance with resources against those with little to no resources is not an equal comparison. Its time for educators to actually get back to educating and take on the challenge of providing a quality education to minorities despite their background. The beautiful thing about intelligence is that it is not based in race, it's innate, and can be fostered with a good education.
This is why I use my privilege to give back and educate all students.
We can learn. Just give us a chance. We might surprise you.