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STEM One-on-One with Talitha Hampton and Malinda Gilmore

ISTG - The Innovative Science & Technology Group sat down with President Talitha Hampton and Board Chair Dr. Malinda Gilmore to learn more about their background and discuss ways to increase the number of minorities in STEM. Below is a snapshot of their conversation. Read the full article here


Q: What are the critical steps policymakers should undertake to increase the number of African-Americans specifically, and also Latinos, Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders, and women in Chemistry and other STEM disciplines?

Gilmore: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) are vital to our future, the future of our country, the future of our regions and the future of our children. STEM is everywhere and it shapes our everyday experiences. STEM education will determine whether the United States will remain a leader among nations and whether we will be able to solve immense challenges in such areas as energy, health, environmental protection, and national security. If the United States of America truly stays focused broadening the participation of persons in STEM then we will see the generation of scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians who will create the new ideas, new products, and entirely new industries of the 21st century.

In today’s society, STEM is becoming more diverse and even internationalized. However, the shortage of African Americans and other minorities, including women, still exists.

Hampton: There are several areas of focus for increasing the number of underrepresented minorities in the STEM fields. As I see it, these areas include increasing the numbers within the pipelines by removing barriers (financial, social, etc.), pushing to recruit and train target groups, bias training, promoting a progressive work environment, mentorship/sponsorship programs, and active retention of diverse candidates which includes renegotiation and accommodating the needs of all employee (especially underrepresented groups).

The following steps should be addressed to increase the number of underrepresented minorities in STEM.

1. Provide robust funding for minority STEM initiatives

There is a wealth of information that supports providing funds for early education in STEM. Leveraging the talent and experiences of human capital is crucial to solving the grand challenges facing society. Fundamental breakthroughs in science and engineering require a broader talent pool, diverse perspectives and thinking to solve complex problems, and the energy of new people entering the field. Tutoring and college prep programs are a great way to bridge and promote the STEM fields.

2. Actively promote and market STEM to minorities

STEM needs a better marketing team. For the few that are engaged in the STEM fields, the push to connect STEM education to the business that STEM enables is lacking. A student (especially minority students) can go from K-12 having zero contact with a scientist or engineer and many students who graduate with STEM degrees do not understand the broader, economic context of that STEM degree. Policy makers can make great impact by creating more opportunities for entrepreneurial ventures, providing incentives to companies that actively partner with minority start-ups and incorporate a STEM education component into their commercial strategies.

3: Increased recruitment of minority candidates

Support recruitment minority recruitment efforts for competitive scholarships and fellowships and establish more sources of funding for such opportunities. It is important that policymakers coordinate efforts to reach STEM diversity workforce goals. Synchronizing organizational efforts will improve effectiveness and efficiency and reduce costs through program sharing.

4: Incentivize the retention of minorities in the STEM fields

The call for diversity without the resources to support the initiatives will yield zero results. Bias training, a progressive work environment, and mentoring programs are key enablers of success. Federally funded organizations and institutions should not be incentivized for the number of minorities recruited, but the number of students that fully matriculate or are promoted in a timely manner. Make diversity mandatory for funding and resources. This includes diversity within corporate boards and the executive leadership with opportunities for training, mentorship, and sponsor for minority candidates. Also, creating a network/community to share information would be extremely useful.

5: Increased Transparency and Accountability

It is important to compare pay and promotion equity and the percent of underrepresented minorities at all levels of an organization. Policy makers must demand accountability for diverse outcomes.

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