From a young age, people craft a perception of where they fit into the world. Frequently, when people don’t see themselves in STEM workers or educators, they tend to gain a sense of rejection and lose their initial passion and interest.
But why does this matter? Certainly, the people who are entering STEM fields will do the same work as these underrepresented groups? Well, no, not exactly.
There is a long list of reasons why diversity is impactful specifically in these fields, but first, let’s talk about what diversity means in a larger context.
What is Diversity?
Diversity is the inclusion, promotion, and cultivation of talent of the entire social spectrum. This doesn’t necessarily exclude any well-represented communities we have today; it adds to them.
It’s a little more difficult to define the social spectrum in this context, but in the context of careers, it’s often simplified to five diversity categories: cultural, racial, religious, age, gender, sexual orientation, and disability.
Each of these identities are not monolithic and intersect with each other frequently, but nonetheless, it’s important to ensure each of these groups are adequately represented, included, and valued in STEM fields.
Why Does Diversity Matter?
Taking into account the definition of diversity, it’s important to recognize the importance of their experiences. Many underrepresented groups have experienced different obstacles than their peers. This leads to differences in perspective, problem solving, and idea generation.
Modern day science is collaborative and not individualistic. Because of this, diversity has become the key to progress both socially and scientifically. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a study that concluded a team of diverse researchers often outperforms a non-diverse team even when categorized as having “a greater ability.”
Perspectives are integral to innovation, and denying diversity is an unethical practice that does nothing but hurt progress in the end. And not only does it hurt company or individual progress, it halts societal, economic, and medical innovation and growth, too.
What is the Key to Growth?
In a study conducted in 2019, underrepresented groups performed on par with their white, male peers when given support by their school administrators, professors, and advisors.
On the other hand, a study from 2013 suggests there are external factors such as a lack of representation in faculty and peers or systematic discrimination.
Fortunately, this study also concluded that representation is a strong adversary against systemic discrimination. By seeing themselves in peers and mentors, they feel less burdened and less alone.
Fostering an inclusive environment in educational spaces is the responsibility of administrators and teachers alike. And while it may not solve every problem related to diversity in STEM, it’s a strong start.
The Journey Starts Here
At the National STEM Honors Society, we hold, implement, and expect our chapters to follow I.D.E.A values: Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity, and Access. It’s our belief that STEM is better with different people who come from different backgrounds and possess different experiences.
Encourage all of your students to learn about and pursue STEM by utilizing these values in your classroom. If you want to learn how and where to start, then click here.
Written by: Emily Hyser
July 27th, 2021