Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Increased Need for Diversity in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Careers

Michael Watson, senior vice president of human resources and diversity for Girl Scouts of the USA, recently penned an article for Diversity-Executive about the need for diversity in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields. His belief is that girls are essential to the national pipeline of talent needed to fill future STEM positions.

According to Watson, "The cornerstone of our economic growth is continued American leadership in the full spectrum of high-tech industries: information technology, green energy, nanotechnology, biotechnology and others. If we fail to develop a robust pipeline of STEM professionals containing women and those from underrepresented communities, the consequences will be dire: a shortage of technical innovation, lower economic growth and higher unemployment for all Americans." This indeed appears logical as data from a 2009 study of eighth-graders conducted by the National Assessment of Educational Progress showed that 43 percent of Hispanics, 44 percent of American Indians and 50 percent of African-Americans scored “below basic” in math.

Watson goes on, listing four steps needed to avoid this outcome:
  1. Accelerate the adoption of best practices that produce superior academic outcomes for under represented students, especially from urban and economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
  2. Unite separate programs sponsored by corporations, universities, nonprofit organizations, churches and other entities into a national effort that prepares underrepresented students.
  3. Incorporate STEM education within Head Start and other early educational initiatives, and strengthen those programs so their results last longer.
  4. Engage parents in preparing their children academically for STEM education and as advocates for STEM careers.
Watson ends by saying, "The economic future of the United States depends on encouraging young women and minorities to prepare for and pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math today. Their emerging talents drive our future prosperity, and that talent must not be wasted." Read the entire column here.