This section offer suggestions and strategies for faculty in STEM disciplines to develop curricula that foster inclusivity and encourage broad participation from our diverse student body. While it is not expected that the content of all STEM courses will be modified to include specific components addressing diversity and social justice, it is hoped that awareness of and sensitivity to diversity and social justice issues among STEM faculty can inform the broader design of STEM curriculum. This section discusses two aspects of how diversity and social justice (DSJ) is critical to STEM education, expanding student diversity and promoting an inclusive environment, and presents three DSJ teaching practices.
Women, minorities, and the poor have been historically excluded from the scientific community: their voices, insights, and potential discoveries, which could have dramatically impacted all of society, have been lost. Multifaceted oppression continues to this day resulting in the widespread underrepresentation of women and minorities in STEM fields: according to reports from the U.S. Department of Commerce, while women make up roughly half the U.S. population they account for only about 25% of the STEM workforce; underrepresented minorities comprise 30% of the U.S. population but account for only about 14% of the STEM workforce. There is also a direct economic impact on these communities: salaries in STEM-related fields average twice that of non-STEM-related fields; unemployment rates in STEM-related fields are half that of non-STEM-related fields.
Science and technology permeate all aspects of modern life: all citizens need broad and deep understanding of science to make well-informed decisions in their own lives and for society as participants in our democracy. As the U.S. moves rapidly toward becoming a majority-minority nation, quality STEM education for all people is absolutely necessary to maintain economic competitiveness, solve complex national and global problems, and promote equity across diverse groups. California State University – East Bay, with one of the most diverse student bodies in the United States, is poised to be a leader in the struggle to diversify STEM majors.
The most important aspects of an inclusive, socially just learning environment are natural components of science instruction. Science can be best experienced and learned through first-hand experimentation, not just told to students by “experts.” Science encourages democratic capacities: questioning knowledge, challenging authority, and collectively solving problems. Student-centered, peer-to-peer, experiential learning meets the needs for creating an inclusive classroom environment and for improving student success.
The classroom environment directly impacts the performance of diverse students and positive measures can have important effects. The study of "stereotype threat and math performance" (Spencer et al., 1999) illustrates the important role of instructors in fostering a supportive classroom environment. In the stereotype threat experiment, a group of students with strong math backgrounds and similar math abilities (as measured by grades and test scores) were administered a math test. One group was told that men performed better than women on the test (the "stereotype threat" condition), and the other group was told that there were no gender differences in test performance (the non-threat condition). It was found that women performed significantly worse than men when the threat condition was present and the gender disparity in test scores disappeared in the non-threat condition. More than 300 studies have confirmed this result and shown that the stereotype threat also impacts minority performance. Furthermore, because of systemic and historical oppression, the stereotype threat is the default condition in classrooms.
AAUW's 2010 research report "Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics" presents in-depth yet accessible descriptions of eight key research findings that point to environmental and social barriers — including stereotypes, gender bias and the climate of science and engineering departments in colleges and universities — that continue to block women’s participation and progress in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The report also includes up to date statistics on girls’ and women's achievement and participation in these areas and offers new ideas for what each of us can do to more fully open scientific and engineering fields to girls and women.
In this Journal Article, Maria Ong, Carol Wright, Lorelle Espinosa, and Gary Orfield review nearly forty years of scholarship on the postsecondary educational experiences of women of color in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Their synthesis of 116 works of scholarship provides insight into the factors that influence the retention, persistence, and achievement of women of color in STEM fields. They argue that the current underrepresentation of women of color in STEM fields represents an unconscionable underutilization of our nation's human capital and raises concerns of equity in the U.S. educational and employment systems. They refute the pervasive myth that underrepresented minority women are less interested in pursuing STEM fields and then present a complex portrait of the myriad factors that influence the undergraduate and graduate experiences of women of color in STEM fields. Finally, the authors discuss the policy implications of their findings and highlight gaps in the literature where further research is needed, providing a knowledge base for educators, policy makers, and researchers to continue the mission of advancing the status of women of color in STEM.
[From ESA Article] Our science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workforce is crucial to America's innovative capacity and global competitiveness. Yet women are vastly underrepresented in STEM jobs and among STEM degree holders despite making up nearly half of the U.S. workforce and half of the college-educated workforce. That leaves an untapped opportunity to expand STEM employment in the United States, even as there is wide agreement that the nation must do more to improve its competitiveness.
There are many possible factors contributing to the discrepancy of women and men in STEM jobs, including: a lack of female role models, gender stereotyping, and less family-friendly flexibility in the STEM fields. Regardless of the causes, the findings of this report provide evidence of a need to encourage and support women in STEM.
[QEM Final Report] The Quality Education for Minorities (QEM) Network, through support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), conducted a workshop focused on increasing the enrollment of African American males in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). The workshop, held in Atlanta, Georgia, on March 19-20, 2010, was the first in a three-part series focusing on minority males. The second workshop was held in Las Vegas, Nevada, on March 26-27, with a focus on Hispanic males; and the third one was held on April 9-10, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with a focus on Native American (American Indian/Alaska Native/Native Hawaiian) males.
The goals of the Atlanta workshop were to:
[Latino Magazine Special Report] Today, about one in four students in the U.S. public school system is Latino. But few are pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM). That has to change if the U.S. is going to meet its current demand for 100,000 new engineers per year. The Department of Labor estimates that nearly 50 percent of new jobs in the next decade will be STEM related. But this message has yet to be communicated effectively to the Latino community.
Conducted annually since 1995, the Bayer Facts of Science Education Survey Series gauges the public's opinion on the state of science education in the United States, support for reform, and the recognition of the roles that science and science literacy play in everyday life. Over the years, we've surveyed a number of different audiences, including the nation's Ph.D. scientists and science teachers; corporate CEOs of STEM companies and other business leaders; and deans of colleges and universities, as well as parents and the general public. We share the results with the general public, elected officials, and science and education thought leaders, among others.