Across the United States the gap between whites and people of color working in science, technology, engineering and math education (STEM) is significant. Blacks are 9% of the STEM workforce, smaller than their 11% share of U.S. workers and are only 5% of those in engineering and architecture, 6% in life and physical science jobs. Hispanic workers represent just 8% of the STEM workforce, while being 17% of all employed.
Roughly 20% of whites and students of color declare STEM subjects as their majors entering college, but nearly 40% of minority students change their majors and more than 20% leave school without earning a degree. As a result, while Blacks, Native Americans, Alaska Natives and Hispanics collectively form 27% of the population, they account for only 11% of America’s science and engineering workers. It is imperative that we raise awareness of the benefits of STEM if we ever want America to be a just and equal society. The good-paying jobs of today and tomorrow are in STEM. There must be a “Reckoning on STEM” before there can be transformational change in this country that addresses wealth, education, health and employment disparities. This is why our society needs STEM education in the fight against racial inequities.
STEM education has implicit and sometimes explicit goals of being a counteracting force against racialized injustice. This is what fuels STEM Global Action, a network and campaign that is pursuing the advancement of science, technology, engineering and math education for children, parents and communities. SGA prioritizes raising awareness of the benefits of STEM education and providing STEM learning opportunities to K-12 students in low-income and communities of color to address societal inequities by creating pathways to quality jobs and careers.
In 2013, I founded STEM NOLA, a New Orleans-based, non-profit committed to bringing STEM education to area neighborhoods and communities at churches, community centers and schools. STEM NOLA has impacted more than 70,000 students, 17,000 families and 2,150 schools across the United States and in five other countries.