Anyone Can Be A Scientist

Minorities in STEM

Mae Jemison. Virginia Apgar. George Washington Carver. Gertrude Elion. Alan Turing.

What do these five people have in common? Not much, besides the fact that each one is responsible for an incredible advancement in the field of STEM.

According to National Science Foundation, in 2015 only 1,818,000 women worked in the STEM field compared to the 4,590,000 men that worked in the STEM field. In that same report, of the 6,408,000 men and women in a STEM occupation, only 387,000 people are Hispanic or Latino. Only 10,000 are American Indian or Alaskan Native, and only 308,000 are Black or African American. These numbers don’t seem like much until you know another number- 3,123,000.

Three million one hundred twenty-three thousand. Of the 6,408,000 people in STEM, that is how many people in a STEM occupation are white men.


How Do We Help?

We have to change those statistics. As a community we can do a number of things to get ALL members of society involved and interested in STEM. Below is a list of a few things we can do outside of the classroom to try and increase those statistics.

  • Hold STEM nights in community buildings or at Park Districts where all families can come together and complete STEM challenges.
  • Never discourage someone from following their dreams, especially if they are pursuing a career in STEM. Instead, offer them words of encouragement and you can even try and research programs and communities for them to join so they have even more support!
    • STEMPOWER is a great organization on college campuses that tries to increase interest in STEM and self-confidence in all girls 8-12 years old!
  • Make resources and the field itself more accessible to minorities.
    • So many science labs seem inaccessible to people with disabilities, especially those who need a wheelchair to move around. This may discourage them from ever working in a lab. Instead, we can create stations with lower bench tops, lower vents, wider room to work, etc.

How To: Encourage STEM in the Classroom

At this point, it’s no secret that the majority of the people working in STEM are white males. As a teacher, it’s our job to encourage the world’s future scientist, mathematicians, engineers, and tech-wizards to pursue whatever they may dream. Read up on some tips and activities to increase interest in STEM among your classroom.

  • For each chapter, introduce a person who worked in STEM that is a minority in some capacity. Have the students research different things like how they became interested in the subject, what their personal life was like, and their amazing STEM advancement!
  • In your classroom, have some books or scientific journals or articles written by or about different women or minorities in STEM. Highly encourage all of your students to read some of them.
  • Let the students pick a famous woman or minority in STEM and have them research all
    about their person. Have them give a short presentation on their woman or minority STEM celebrity!
  • Once a week, have the students do STEM challenges in small groups to work on their skills and show them STEM is fun!





If you’re still not convinced everyone should be involved in STEM, watch this short  interview with Mae Jemison, the first woman of color in space, in which she explains why learning about STEM is important to every single person, no matter your career!


  1. Claire, Great post! I really liked how you started off highlighting some of the overlooked names in science and continued to give statistics about the issue. More importantly though, I think you have some great ideas about how to help fix the issue. What particularly do you plan to introduce in your classroom to deal with the issue of equity?


    • Thanks Peter! I think what’s most important in a science classroom is to keep introducing both male and female scientists of differing races, religions, abilities, ethnicities, and sexualities. The more scientists I show them that are not just white males, the more chance each student has of really connecting and relating to a scientist. My hope would be that they would find a connection to one person, and that would lead them to picture themselves as a scientist.

  2. Awesome post! I really like how you very explicitly stated the numbers and statistics about different types of people in STEM. It really is shocking once you see the numbers just how many white men are doing in STEM compared to others. I thought the one graphic where it shows the white bars beneath each person of scientists and engineers was really impactful. Have you ever witnessed any girls in your classes shying away from STEM at any point? Why do you think there are SO many more white men than women and minorities? Again, great post!

    • Margaux,
      Thank you! Personally, I haven’t seen any girls in my actual classes say or do anything that would indicate that they felt they didn’t belong because of their gender. However, I often get a less-than-excited reaction when I tell females that I’m majoring in chemistry and biology education versus males. I know my high school only had one female science teacher, so I feel like many girls are not able to picture themselves or other females in that position. It puts female students at a disadvantage, but also the workforce as well. We need different perspectives and skills in STEM field positions!

  3. Claire,
    I really enjoyed reading your blog! I like how you started off with naming a bunch of scientists. That’s a good way to grab people’s attention! I also like how you started off with all of those numbers/statistics. That’s a good way to get people thinking about just how big of a problem this is, it really puts it into perspective. My favorite idea of yours is hosting a STEM night where all families can come together! What kinds of activities would you hold for the families??
    I think you mentioning how to make things more accessible for people with disabilities was a nice touch. That is one minority that usually slips peoples minds? Do you agree?
    Again, great blog! I also enjoyed watching the video!

    • Katie,
      Thank you so much! For the STEM family night, I would love to incorporate candy or other food into a challenge or two just because I feel like food is such a comfort for so many people and could make people more relaxed or excited to participate in the challenges. I would also do challenges that maybe focus on each of the STE(A)M categories a little more than the others, so one that focuses a bit more on math, on on science, etc. I think that way, the students and the families are getting a bit more exposure into each subject than they might if each challenge is heavily focused on only one of the subjects. And I do believe that scientists with differing abilities is often overlooked. I think because ability, or disability, is sometimes harder to visually see than race or gender, many times it goes unnoticed. Because of this, I think being able to include students in STEM no matter their abilities, is so critical.

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