Bayer Foundation Panel Addresses Inequity in Higher-Ed STEM
This post is written by STEMconnector Director of Strategic Partnerships, Ted Wells.
Washington DC – The Bayer Corporation hosted a panel discussion today at the National Press Club today focusing on increasing the numbers of women and minorities in STEM fields in Higher Education. Dr. Mae Jemison, former NASAastronaut, entrepreneur, physician and expert on STEM Education moderated a panel of experts from distinctive perspectives in higher education. The panelists shared their own experiences in the field of higher education and proposed solutions to augment the numbers of women and underrepresented minorities graduating with STEM degrees.
African-Americans and Hispanics are disproportionately underrepresented in the STEM Workforce. A Bureau of Economic Statistics and Administration report released last fall found that African-Americans and Hispanics comprised only 12 percent of all STEM workers in 2009 despite representing 25 percent of the total workforce. The story was quite different for Whites who represented 68 percent of the workforce and 72 percent of all STEM workers.
The picture for women in STEM fields is similar. Despite comprising 48 percent of the total workforce in 2009, women represented only 24 percent of the STEM workforce. The primary driver of this disparity appears to be degree attainment in STEM fields where women earned only 24 percent of the STEM degrees in 2009. Engineering is particularly stark where women earned only 14 percent of total degrees in 2009.
Dr. S. James Gates, Member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), led off the panel by discussing his work with the PCAST and the their latest report. He offered three recommendations for building up the pipeline of STEM graduates from women and underrepresented minorities: promote active engagement strategies for these students, engage students in real research with current implications and improve the quality and quantity of mathematics instruction. Dr. Gates noted that “60% of college students take a math course that by international standards is not a college level math course.”
Addressing gender inequality in STEM fields is a critical concern for the future but it is not easy given the status quo. “Many current programs sustain rather than redress gender inequity,” pointed out Dr. Mary Frank Fox of Georgia Tech. “Programs that address gender inequity are onerous to achieve because they go to the authority of faculty and the prestige of the institution.”
There were many exciting stories from the panel as well. Dr. S. James Gates and Dr. Clemencia Cosentino de Cohen discussed their experiences with the LSAMP program at the National Science Foundation. The program facilitates academic and social integration as well as professionalization for its participants. Charged with increasing the numbers of historically underrepresented students in STEM fields and disseminating best practices, LSAMP currently has approximately 31,000 graduates per year. The success of the LSAMP program is evidenced by the fact that 45 percent completed graduate degrees compared with only 20 percent of non-LSAMP graduates.
Three examples of institutional success are evidenced by the University of Maryland Baltimore County, Harvey Mudd College and Duquesne University. Dr. Freeman Hrabowski of UMBC whose programs Meyerhoff Scholarship program has nearly 1000 graduates and has been recognized by both the New York Times and the National Science Foundation as a national model. Dr. David Seybert discussed Duquesne University’s successful Bayer Scholars program that has provided a strong academic and social support network for students in Chemical Sciences. Finally, Dr. Ran Libeskind-Hadas of Harvey Mudd discussed his institution’s successful initiative to increase the numbers of women in Computer Science courses by streaming students based on experience. Women majors in Computer Science have tripled since 2006 from 14 percent to 40 percent.
The Bayer Corporation Foundation has made STEM Education its number one priority under President Rebecca Lucore who has been with the foundation for 16 years. The Foundation’s “Making Science Make Sense” Program has taken on the ambitious task of identifying the strong STEM Education programs and compiling a “Compendium of Best Practice K-12 STEM Education Programs” and other guides including one for creating successful business education partnerships. The Foundation released its most recent report today entitled, “STEM Education, Science Literacy and the Innovation Workforce in America.”