It’s Not About Convincing Them to Start, it’s About Not Pushing Them Leave.

Did you know that a third of minority students leave stem majors? And that’s starting from already low numbers.

Why are minority students leaving the stem field?

Kids Are More Motivated To “Do Science” Than “Be A Scientist” – A Finding  That Could Help Address The Profession's Diversity Problem – Research Digest
Alt Text: Young students of color performing a science experiment

It’s not that minority students don’t love science. If you look at young elementary school students you will see almost no difference between the number of white male students interested in science and minority students interested in science. If young students are so interested then, why do more minority students leave than non-minority students?

Alt. Text: Tweet that reads “Students that hold minority identities leave stem fields because they are disregarded, disrespected, and discriminated against by their peers, instructors, and supervisors.”

In order to encourage more people that hold minority identities to enter stem fields, we must first change the culture of the fields they are entering into. As teachers that begins in our classrooms.

This article from the Education Advisory Board discusses research done on why minority students are leaving the stem fields. It is a great place to begin or continue your journey into making the stem community a safer place.

Check it out here:

Creating a Safe and Welcoming Culture Surrounding STEM

Creating a safe and welcoming culture in the STEM fields needs to begin somewhere, so where do we start?

“Administrators need to talk to students, figure out what’s going on in classrooms and how they add to the exclusion these students feel. We have to hone in on the reasons they’re leaving and directly address these issues before solving anything else.”

Darryl Dickerson, Associate Director of the Minority Engineering Program at Purdue University

Once we know this issues what can we do?

The Physics Education Research Group at the University of Utah (PERU) has done research on creating an inclusive climate in physics specifically for LGBTQ scientists. Here are some of the recommendations they to the American Physical Society.

Alt Text: LGBT Climate in Physics APS Article Cover
  1. Create a safe and welcoming environment at meetings through creating safe spaces and using inclusive language.
  2. Create and implement a code of conduct that provides ways for people to report infractions and proper responses to reported infractions
  3. Advocate for LGBTQ members within the STEM field in the US and in other countries.
  4. Implement inclusive mentoring programs
  5. Promote inclusive practices in academia, national labs, and in the STEM industry
  6. Develop a training program on inclusive workplace practices
  7. Use site visits to provide feedback on inclusion to physics departments and national labs
If you want to checkout more from the PERU group find them here:

And you can find the paper referenced above here:

These suggestions are a great place to start! Despite this research being on LGBTQ scientists, their suggestions can be applied to lots of different situations.

Here are some of the steps I will personally take to make my future classroom a safe and welcoming space to those of all identities:

  1. Include background on scientists that go beyond the idea of a white male with crazy hair
  2. Make sure all resources and lessons are accessible to students of all abilities
  3. Introduce students to diverse scientists in their community, including those who are trying to change the culture of the STEM community
  4. Respect and protect students identities
  5. Create equal and equitable opportunities for students to thrive
Check out this youtube channel that introduces students to a diverse range of scientists in Cincinnati!

And most importantly continue to fight to change the environment that minority students are entering into such that fewer are pushed to leave.


Alt. Text: Progress Random Flag behind diverse scientists.

Simply encouraging students to enter the stem field will never be enough if we cannot change the environment they are entering into. In order to help more people with minority identities succeed in the stem field we must create a culture that welcomes and supports minorities.


  1. Hi Michael!

    Thanks for your question. I think one of the best things that can be done on a school level is organizing a club that focuses on minorities in STEM. This would allow students the opportunity for students to be with students who have similar experiences and talk about their STEM experience at the school. It could also allow students to explore more STEM topics and fields outside of the classroom.

    But one of the biggest and easiest thing to do, is to work with other STEM teachers to examine the culture that surrounds STEM in the school. Once you know the way students and faculty treat STEM you can better address things that are specific to your school.

  2. Hey Ellie!
    Your first two sentences hit so hard right from the get-go. Your different angle on equity in STEM immediately piqued my interest because I had never realized that challenging inequity can take the form of retention just as much as inclusion. Along with the things we are able to do within our classrooms as individual educators, can you provide any examples of action we’re able to take outside of our classroom — either between grade levels or within the greater community?

  3. Hi Ellie!
    I really enjoyed your blog post. I think it is so powerful the way that you approached this issue. It is so real in STEM, that women and people of color are simply disregarded and disrespected. I think you made a lot of great points and your post was formatted in a way that was visually pleasing as well.
    My one question for you: How can we encourage students to stay interested in STEM maybe outside of the traditional classroom? In things like extracurriculars or summer activities etc?

  4. Hi Rachel!

    There is this youtube channel that I found recently that introduces students to a diverse range of scientists in Cincinnati. I think this could be an interesting way to introduce students to a bunch of different science careers. But it would also be interesting to find scientists who would be willing to come in and talk to the students, and with the invention of zoom we could even meet scientists from all over the world and all over the country. One last idea I had would be for students to research a STEM career they are interested in so that they can see how STEM careers connect to their interests.

  5. Hi Luke!

    Thanks so much for this question, I love it! One scientist that I really look up to right now is actually my cousin. She has done a lot of interesting work throughout her schooling, including working with the Mayo clinic on a new way to deliver medicine to cancer patients. I think I would highlight her as an example of what science can be used for and that you can get involved in the field of science at any point! I would love to hear about a scientist you look up to!

  6. Ellie!
    I am so impressed by your blog post and your approach overall! I thought you did a great job of presenting the reasons for the racial disparities in STEM as well as providing substantial resources for readers to learn more about these issues. I liked how you included addressing students of all abilities in your steps to make your classroom more inclusive too. My one question for you would be, as a teacher, in what ways could you introduce students to future careers in STEM?

  7. Hi Ellie!
    I really liked how you honed in on the fact that we should first focus on changing the STEM field to make it more inclusive before pushing these underrepresented students into it. I had never really thought about the preexisting problems in the field, so I’m really glad you brought it up. The PERU research group sounds like they are doing amazing work to promote equity in the physics realm for especially LGBTQ+ students and researchers. I appreciated how you broadened their recommendations and applied them to all different minority populations, and I think that your commitments in your future classroom are really insightful. You mentioned that you would want to showcase many diverse scientists in your future classroom. Who is a scientist that you really look up to and would definitely want to highlight to your future students?

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