What can be done to increase diversity in STEM fields?

What can’t be done to increase diversity in STEM fields? There are thousands of terrific ideas out there! Even talking about prioritizing diversity in STEM is a huge step in the right direction but I’m not satisfied yet. There are many important initiatives to increase diversity in STEM fields, but it’s also valuable to think about things each of us could do today.

  • Be visible so young learners can see STEM professionals from a wide range of different backgrounds, genders, races, and ethnicities.
  • Mentor someone from a group typically underrepresented in STEM. Help them see themselves in the field and create their own pathway to a career.
  • Support your local science teacher to foster critical thinking skills and creativity by volunteering in their classroom, providing real world examples from your experiences for their curriculum, or hosting students for a tour of your workplace.

Most local STEM education nonprofits would gladly welcome your time as a volunteer to provide meaningful experiences for youth in STEM. For example, Learning Undefeated’s Emerging Leaders program supports Black and Latina women by helping them build the personal network of mentors and supporters they will need to sustain themselves through STEM education and career pathways. It leverages local women working in STEM as speakers, mentors, and lab partners. Work with a partner that has existing trusted relationships to maximize your time. Once you’ve gotten the hang of things, keep in contact with your mentee. You never know, they may be one of your colleagues in five to ten years!

What barriers do you see to closing the gender gap in STEM?

Exposure, connections, and opportunity: Men are far more likely to have a network of professional connections in most career industries (even outside of STEM), which makes it harder for women to land that promotion. Women must work twice as hard as their male counterparts just to be accepted on the same level, overperforming to prove their worth. We also deal with a plethora of microaggressions and sexism-related challenges, such as undervalued credibility, imposter syndrome, ageism, and reluctance to say no, which impacts personal and family time. It’s a constant game of catch-up for women, even in today’s workplace.