STEM is for Everyone

Gender Inequality in STEM Fields: Prejudice Requires Multifaceted Response  | The Emory Wheel

Science is the pursuit of knowledge of the natural world through observation and experiment. It is rooted in the fundamental human desire of discovery and curiosity. This desire to know, to question, and discover is common to all of humanity. Every child, regardless of race or gender, always constantly ask one simple question: why? If this desire is so basic to all people everywhere, why then do we see only a select group of people actually doing science as a career. Statistically, white men dominate occupations within science, technology, and engineering. Women and people of color are vastly underrepresented, which is extremely disappointing.

Women, Minorities and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering  report released

This graphic breaks down the percentages of certain groups in science and engineering occupations compared to their national percentages. It shows that even though white men only make up 31% of the United States population, they take up 49% of science and engineering occupations. They are clearly very overrepresented. On the other end, white women are vastly underrepresented. They also make up 31% of the United States population, however they only take up 49% of the Science and Engineering occupations. This discrepancy is staggering. Minorities, such as Black and Latino, are also very underrepresented regardless of gender. This graphic clearly shows that something systematic is taking place to discourage women and people of color from pursing a career in the STEM field. In order to find solutions to the problem, we must first understand the root causes of this issue.

Role models are the secret to diversity in STEM

Causes to the Problem

Women and minorities often do not feel welcome or encouraged in the STEM field. Throughout their schooling experience, they have received subtle comments and micro-messages conveying that they are not expected to pursue a degree or career in STEM. This often builds up over time, and becomes internalized by these people. They are less likely to take difficult science classes, and less likely to try hard in these science classes. This is because they naturally think they are not well adept at these skills, or they automatically a discount a career in this field. If they make it through high school and enjoy STEM, telling other people they are looking to find a career in STEM after college is usually met with shock. They are constantly made to feel like they do not belong in this field. The statistics show this is true for women and minorities who successfully start a career in STEM. These people are much more likely to leave their careers than their white male counterparts.

Women, Blacks Most Likely to Leave STEM Careers, New Research by AIR Finds  | American Institutes for Research

This graphic confirms what we already know. Women and minorities do not feel welcome in the STEM field. What is most upsetting is that these statistics are for those that choose to leave. This means they have already successfully secured a position in STEM. They have overcome so many barriers, and clearly are very motivated to attain this position. But despite all their hard-work, they are made to feel so out of place that their only option is to leave the field.

How to Increase Underrepresented Groups in STEM

So now that we understand the problem, what is the solution? The answer starts in the classroom. Teachers and educators must be positive and encouraging to all their students, regardless of race and gender. Despite what the statistics show, anyone can do science and have a successful career. Teachers and parents must understand this in order for this problem to be fixed.

Another solution that must be working in tandem is increasing women and minority scientists in the media. The media plays a huge role in determining how people think and feel about things. The media must start showing more women and minorities in the STEM field so young girls and people of color have role models to look up to. This is a crucial step.

How I will Respond as a Teacher

I am self-prescribed STEMinist. I believe stem is for all. As a teacher, I want my students to be able to see that through how I talk and act. As a teacher, I hope to be positive and encouraging to all my students. But I especially want to make sure that I am encouraging to young girls and people of color interested in STEM. They have faced so much opposition, I will strive to make sure they always believe in themselves and their abilities. Specifically, I want to:

  • Encourage young women and people of color

I want to be positive and encouraging to all students of mine, but especially those who are young women and people of color. I want them to know that they can achieve anything they set their minds to. They must know that there are no limits to their potential, and that any career is attainable no matter what people think. I will encourage them to try hard and to not give up. I will challenge them so they will believe in themselves and their abilities, and help them along the way.

  • Highlight role models in the STEM field

Unfortunately, it feels like all the scientists that we learn about in school are white men. Copernicus, Kepler, Newton, Galileo, Einstein, Schrodinger, etc etc. I want to highlight scientists who have had major contributions to science who do not fit this mold. I want to teach my students about women who made amazing scientific discoveries, and people of color who had major scientific breakthroughs. By having the knowledge that people like them have done great things, they will have more self-confidence. They will have role models to look up to and a future they can envision and be excited about.

  • Be aware of negative micro-messages

Micro-messages are subtle messages, most often negative, that are conveyed by people mostly unconsciously. They often express someone’s expectations, and can greatly impact young women and people of color who are interested in the STEM field. These people are often met with shocked looks or sly comments that convey to them that they don’t belong. These micro-messages can slowly build up over time, and the beliefs internalized. They begin to believe others’ expectations for them, and believe they aren’t supposed to be in STEM because its not for them. Unfortunately, a lot of the time these micro-messages occur in school, either by teachers or classmates. It’s a way of social conditioning that keeps the status quo. As a teacher, I want to be aware of these micro-messages. I will not allow them to be used by me or any student in my classroom, because I believe STEM is for everyone.

Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed, until next time my fellow STEMinists!

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4 Responses to STEM is for Everyone

  1. bantznf says:

    Hey Luke! Thanks for reading my blog and commenting with your questions. I agree that girls are often told these negative messages. I would try to convince them otherwise by challenging them in the classroom while also encouraging them. In order to believe in their abilities, they must be challenged and overcome these challenges. However, they must also be encouraged and helped along the way. Also, I would show my class role models in the stem field who are women and people of color. This is how I would convince you women that they are academically strong enough to seek careers in the stem field.

  2. bantznf says:

    Hey McKenna! Thanks for reading my blog and commenting with your questions. Some specific ways I plan on encouraging women and people of color in the classroom are by using positive communication and showing my class role models in the stem field. By positively communicating with my students, I hope to motivate them and allow them to believe themselves and their abilities. By showing my class role models in the stem field, I hope they will see people who look like them accomplishing things that they hope to accomplish. I could also encourage outside the classroom by being supportive of their extra-curricular activities, and by building good relationships with their parents during parent-teacher conferences.

  3. mill1745 says:

    Hi Nathan! I really liked the message that you gave in your blog post. It is incredibly disappointing that there is a severe underrepresentation in the STEM field for women and people of color. You mentioned encouraging women and people of color in the classroom. Could you give some specific ways you’d do that? And how could you encourage them outside the classroom as well?

  4. larsonli says:

    Hi Nathan!
    I really enjoyed reading your blog, and I thought you brought up some very important points. The statistics and graphics you used were very illuminating to the problem we are facing in the STEM field right now. I appreciated how you commented on the causes for women and minority groups leaving STEM jobs or not getting into those fields at all. I think the micromessaging is such an unrecognized issue, and its effects are greater than we can imagine. I also thought your ideas were really cool about what you would do as Mr. Bantz to combat this micromessaging and encourage your students to do STEM. How would you fight the notion that some students, particulary girls experience, that they are simply not smart or academically strong enough to do well in STEM. You mention how often young women are told that, so what would you do to convince them otherwise?

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