by Ysabela Golden
It’s not a secret that the United States places particular importance and prestige on the fields of STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. The acronym is a frequent buzzword in conversations about education, politics, and economics— and for a clear reason.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for those employed in STEM fields is almost $90k, over double that of non-STEM occupations. Employment in STEM is also projected to experience more growth than other fields over the next decade. The question is, who exactly will get the chance to be a part of that growth?
Historically, not all students in the U.S. are given equal schooling in STEM subjects. According to 2019’s National Assessment of Educational Progress, students who were eligible for the National School Lunch Program scored 10% lower on the science test than those who weren’t. Similarly, Black students and Hispanic students scored 11% and 8% worse than White students, respectively. In higher education, women also face challenges.
In 2019, the Society of Women Engineers reported that over 32% of women pursuing STEM degrees switch out of those fields before graduating, and of those who stay, only 30% of women who earn a bachelor’s degree in engineering are still working in the field 20 years later. “Organizational climate” is an oft-reported reason for this exodus.
The Aspire: National Alliance for Inclusive & Diverse STEM Faculty is looking to tackle this issue on a number of fronts (institutionally, regionally and nationally), driving towards their end goal of helping more underrepresented groups succeed in STEM fields through inclusive teaching practices and diverse faculties.
“If we want to diversify STEM writ large, then if you don’t have a diverse faculty who are teaching in these disciplines, then you have less of a likelihood of attracting a diversified student body,” said Dr. Christine Rener, Grand Valley State University’s Vice Provost for Instructional Development and Director of the Faculty Teaching and Learning Center. “Really, the ultimate goal is making sure we have an inclusive and equitable STEM in general.”
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