Challenges and Opportunities for Sustainable Growth in STEM Industries

by DeVan Hankerson on March 8, 2016

At Dialogue on Diversity’s recent Internet Data Privacy Colloquium, MMTC Research Director DeVan Hankerson delivered a presentation on diversity in STEM education and employment, titled “Challenges and Opportunities for Sustainable Growth in STEM Industries.” Her full presentation is below, and a PDF is available here.

Issue Under Review: STEM
Challenges and Opportunities for Sustainable Growth in STEM Industries

Slide 1 - Issue Under Review STEM

What is the STEM Problem?

Slide 2 - What is the STEM Problem

  • Disparity: Gender and Race Based
    • STEM Employment
    • STEM Education
      • STEM Attrition
      • Social Perspective: Students believing they would be successful in the STEM professions
    • Implications of low STEM participation rates:
      • Developing technical knowledge and skills corresponding to the needs of the high tech industry.
    • Bright Spots, areas of further consideration
    • Discussion

Gender Disparities in STEM Employment

Slide 3 - Gender Disparities in STEM Employment

Among science and engineering graduates, men are employed in a STEM occupation at twice the rate of women.

  • —According to US Census data, Nearly 1 in 5 female science and engineering graduates are out of the labor force as compared with less than 1 in 10 male science and engineering graduates.
  • —The next generation of female STEM graduates are not fairing any better, among younger women there is much less growth.

Gender Disparities in STEM Education

Slide 4 - Gender Disparities in STEM Education

The overall percent of females interested in STEM majors and occupations is a surprising 46%; however, across all STEM areas, males consistently outperformed females in math and science, with the exception of the females interested in engineering and technology.

Demographic Differences in STEM Employment, and in the STEM Workforce

Slide 5 - Demographic Differences in STEM Employment and in the STEM Workforce

People of color have been consistently underrepresented in STEM employment. Hispanic Americans and African Americans are the most underrepresented groups.

Demographic Differences in STEM Education

Slide 6 - Demographic Differences in STEM Education

  • The academic achievement gap that exists in general for ethnically diverse students is even more pronounced among those interested in the STEM fields.
  • We know that female students are more interested in STEM fields, a fact obscured by the low representation of women in STEM related employment fields.

Demographic Differences in STEM Education: Attrition

Slide 7 - Demographic Differences in STEM Education - Attrition

Pre-college preparation and STEM courses taken in the 1st year are among the primary predictors for student attrition from STEM degrees.

In Sum: Demographic Differences

Slide 8 - In Sum - Demographic Differences

There is a disconnect between minority students and STEM careers

  • IN ADDITION to quality math, science and technology instruction the primary challenges are:
    • STEM interest among minority students and
    • STEM aspirations

Even if exposed to good STEM instruction, and even as they gain STEM skills and competencies, many students may not be able to see themselves as a part of the STEM community.

 Having a well-developed science identity includes competence in science, understanding of science, and recognizing oneself as a ‘science person’”

– Education Policy Center

Racial Diversity in the Tech Industry

Slide 9 - Racial Diversity in the Tech Industry

  • 3% Hispanic American
  • 2% African American
  • 4% Multi/Other
  • 41% Asian American
  • 50% White

Notes from Practitioners

Slide 10 - Notes from Practitioners

Four Ways to get students interested in STE(A)M?

1.“Trying it”, being able to play in these fields. Active Learning is the way to go.

2.Get students to understand why technology is important and what technology is used to accomplish.


4.See yourself in the field. Mine the history so students understand that “people like them” have always been involved in Math, Science, Engineering and in the Arts.

— from Megan Smith, U.S. Chief Technology Officer

Opportunities: Intel’s $300 Million Diversity Initiative
What’s their goal?

To achieve “full representation” of women and minorities by 2020—a.k.a. employ a workforce that is more representative of actual demographics.”

— Intel CEO Brian Krzanich


  • DeVan Hankerson is the Research Director at the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC). She has expertise in industry analysis and the application of economics to public policy, particularly as it relates to telecommunications networks and information services.

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