Some groups go underrepresented in STEM education and jobs

We all know how important it is to get an early, strong start in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Unfortunately for some sectors of the population, it is much more difficult to excel in STEM fields because they fall into “underrepresented” groups. For example, women, Latinos, and Africa Americans have fewer STEM education opportunities and are much less often employed in STEM fields.

The Level Playing Field Institute recently published a report entitled Dissecting the Data 2012: Examining STEM Opportunities and Outcomes for Underrepresented Students in California which looks at the progress in STEM of African-Americans and Latinos in the California school systems. The report found that African Americans demonstrate consistently lower proficiency rates in math and science in comparison with their Asian and White peers. Additionally, there are far fewer African-American and Latino students enrolled in AP courses, especially in science and math. The report highlights five recommendations for improving the preparation of underrepresented student for success in STEM field.

  1. Increase training and professional development opportunities for teachers in science and math
  2. Expand programs that develop early interest in STEM among underrepresented groups
  3. Increase access to rigorous and AP courses, especially in math and science
  4. Expand STEM acceleration and pre-college programs
  5. Expand higher education programs that recruit and retain students of color in STEM

A Department of Commerce report released in September 2011 noted that 74 percent of STEM workers are male, 6 percent are Hispanic, 6 percent are African-American, and 14 are Asian-American. Clearly the United States needs to improve its recruitment and training of attracting minorities and women to STEM fields, which STEM workers make 25 more than other fields and only have a 5.5 percent unemployment rate.

Posted by: Devon Thorsell

Sources: The Level Playing Field Institute, Economics and Statistics Administration, Triangle Coalition for Science and Technology Education

Photo credit: 21st Century Classroom courtesy of flickr user Mike @ NW Lens

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