Tech’s Diversity Issues Need Community-Based Solutions

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picture of equations, math, geometry, physics

The lack of diversity in STEM fields is a problem – not just for underrepresented communities, but for the industry itself.  Homogenous groups of scientists do less influential science. Less diverse design teams are less creative. The unconscious bias of coders becomes the unconscious bias of code: which in turn, becomes a PR nightmare for the owners of that code. The data is clear: there is a distinct competitive advantage to hiring a diverse team.

And yet. A 2018 Pew Research study highlighted (or lowlighted, rather) that while Black and Hispanic workers make up 11% and 16% of the American workforce respectively, they make up only 9% and 7% of the STEM workforce. Black and Hispanic students also switch out of STEM majors at near twice the rate of their white counterparts.

If STEM companies and academic institutions want to reap the vast benefits of a more diverse workforce, we must stop these trends. The STEM community cannot afford to let another generation of talented diverse thinkers slip beyond its grasp, so we need to ensure underrepresented young people understand STEM careers are both interesting and attainable. Right now, many young people may not feel that to be true.

That is why I launched Hip Hop Science, and why I am proud to be involved with the STEM Success Summit. The Summit is a three-day event, taking place November 19-21, that aims to foster community among young people who are currently underrepresented in STEM fields. The STEM Success Summit was founded and organized by a diverse group of scientists, engineers, and educators who know through lived experience how hard it can be for minority workers to find and maintain a career path in STEM. I happen to be one of them!

We created this free, virtual event to offer inspiration, networking, and mentorship to people considering or starting STEM careers. Our goal is to connect attendees to both seasoned professionals and each other, so that they enter the STEM workforce with a diverse community at their backs.

Connecting BIPOC students and workers to peer and mentorship groups that can support their career paths as minorities within their chosen fields is a critical element of improving the inclusivity of STEM culture. So if you’re beginning your STEM career, and you don’t see a lot of people like you in your classes or on your zoom calls, come!

We’ll have voices from NASA, the NOAA, several prestigious universities, and a wide range of giant technology companies and trade associations. There is a career in STEM out there for anyone who wants it, and the speakers we’ll have during the STEM Success Summit are living proof of that.

From an employers perspective, if you want to amplify the event’s reach, follow STEMedia on Twitter and LinkedIn and like and share event announcements. If you want to make an organizational commitment and connect to attendees, sponsor the event. Too many STEM careers are abandoned before they really begin in earnest, but by supporting the STEM Success Summit, you can help change that. To find more information about the event, or to inquire about speaking or sponsorship opportunities, visit the STEM Success Summit website.

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