The Need to Educate the Underserved in STEM

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In April of 2021, The National Science Foundation released an industry report highlighting startling data about three notably underrepresented groups in STEM education and employment.  These groups are:

  • Women
  • Black/Hispanic/Native American or Alaskan Native
  • Persons with Disabilities

Women in STEM Education and Occupations

 It’s common knowledge that females are underrepresented in STEM education and occupations. In 2019, the share of science and engineering doctorates awarded to women was just 42.2%, despite the fact that women make up 50.1% of the population.

Just 10.7 million women were employed full time among scientists and engineers, as opposed to over 13 million men.  Unfortunately, those female scientists and engineers who are employed full time are bringing home average salaries that are lower than their male colleagues.  ($70K vs. $95K on average)

It’s unclear EXACTLY what’s causing women to enter STEM fields at a lower rate than their male counterparts, but many think it has to do with a STEM mindset that girls develop early in their school careers. They develop a weak STEM identity, and an idea that boys are better at STEM.  Girls need strong role models, plenty of hands-on opportunities, and encouraging teachers.

 

Minorities in STEM Education and Occupations (Black/Hispanic/Native American or Alaskan Native)

Just 24% of all science and engineering bachelor’s degrees awarded in the US went to underrepresented minority students in 2018.  As education levels increase, that percentage of minorities walking away with degrees decreases. Only 22% of master’s degrees, and just under 14% of doctoral degrees in science and engineering were awarded to students in minority groups.  

Although it’s hard to pin down why, this underrepresentation also seems to begin with a STEM identity issue.  Children see scientists and engineers as “white males” in media and the world around them.  According to the National Science Foundation’s most recent report, two thirds of scientists and engineers employed full time are white.

There’s a need for opportunity and programming, but also a need for children of color to be able to see adults who look like them in science and engineering roles.  Having role models of color in fields that may be perceived as hard to reach can work miracles in the mind of a child.

 

Persons with Disabilities in STEM Education and Occupations

Neurodivergent and physically disabled individuals are also excluded from STEM.  Disabilities don’t necessarily mean that a person can’t obtain a quality education experience, or be a productive member of an organization. 

It does mean, however, that some special accommodations may be necessary to make education and employment success accessible to them.  Only about 10% of scientists and engineers in the workforce reported having one or more disabilities.  Those disabilities can include but are not limited to:

  • Vision impairment
  • Hearing loss
  • Trouble concentrating, remembering or making decisions
  • Walking independently
  • Lifting any significant weight over 10lbs.

Thimble’s interactive, hands-on, self-paced curriculum model makes coding and STEM instruction available to students who may need to complete schooling at home, and is especially engaging for visual and tactile learners.

How Can We Increase Opportunity and Self-Perception in STEM?

One of the easiest ways to increase these groups in STEM education and occupations is to remove as many barriers to entry as possible.  Make STEM learning opportunities unique, engaging, affordable, and able to be delivered to the masses:  boys and girls of every ability and race.

Position STEM graduates, professionals and CEO’s in front of kids regularly.  Let them see themselves in STEM.  One of many ways Thimble does that is by putting our CEO right in the teaching seat, driving classes to kids across the world.  As a founder of color, a first time high school and college graduate in his family – Oscar represents a minority in STEM himself.  Students see him first hand heading up STEM lessons, and it resonates with them.

To learn more about how you can help Thimble reach students of every gender, race, and ability gain access to quality STEM programming visit our Republic campaign.  Learn about how Thimble plans to use capital to expand their STEM outreach to students of all kinds, and across all grade levels, and how you can help!

 

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