People from minoritized racial and ethnic groups continue to face numerous systemic barriers that impede their ability to access, persist, and thrive in STEMM higher education and the workforce.
To promote a culture of antiracism, diversity, equity, and inclusion (ADEI) in STEMM, organizations must actively work to dismantle policies and practices that disadvantage people from minoritized groups.
People from minoritized racial and ethnic groups encounter barriers in higher education including:
As a result of these barriers, people from minoritized groups are underrepresented in the STEMM workforce, particularly in positions that require a bachelor’s degree or higher, which affects:
STEMM HIGHER EDUCATION
In STEM, 91% of university and college faculty are White. (96% in more selective schools)
Li & Koedel, 2017; Nelson et al., 2010
STEMM HIGHER EDUCATION
In postsecondary education, Black, Hispanic, and White students declare STEM majors at roughly the same rate.
Xie, 2015; Griffith, 2010
STEMM HIGHER EDUCATION
40% of Black students switch out of STEM majors before earning their degree.
Riegle-Crumb, 2019 #9
STEMM HIGHER EDUCATION
In 2021, less than 4% of full-time faculty members at U.S. medical schools identified as Black or African American, whereas ~62% identified as White.
If current trends continue, the entire U.S. population will be majority persons of color between 2042-2045
Frey, 2021; Craig & Richeson, 2014
Today, persons 18 years and younger are 50% persons of color
Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2022
9% of STEMM jobs are held by Black individuals.
Fry, 2021 #1
Of all active physicians in 2018, 5% identified as Black or African American, compared to ~56% who identified as White.
In 2019, 16% of health care workers identified as Black, whereas 60% identified as White.
Laughlin et al., 2021
See Chapter 3 to learn more about racial representation in the STEMM workforce and STEMM higher education
ADEI is not a single set of goals that organizations can work toward, achieve, and declare the work concluded. Instead, these efforts demand sustained attention, leadership, and resources to flourish.
For the complete list of recommendations, see the Summary of the report.
Leaders and gatekeepers of STEMM organizations, higher education, and human resource offices can improve minoritized people’s individual and interpersonal experiences in STEMM educational and professional environments by:
Leaders of STEMM organizations should use a framework (such as those listed below) to evaluate the institution’s values and norms and identify specific ways to address norms that impede diversity and promote a culture that is genuinely accessible and supportive to all. These top-level leaders should work with managers, supervisors, and other mid-level leaders who influence the local culture within organizations and can be a critical part of implementation. The evaluation should include review of:
Leaders, managers, and human resource departments in STEMM organizations should anticipate resistance to ADEI efforts and investigate with rigorous empirical tools, the impacts of training on different types of ADEI outcomes (hiring, climate, promotion, retention, leadership roles, resource allocation).
Gatekeepers who manage teams should be intentional about creating the following conditions, which can support positive team performance outcomes and help reduce instances of interpersonal bias:
Visit Chapter 7 of the report to learn more about best practices for building diverse work teams.
Leaders should take action to redress both individual bias and discrimination as well as organizational processes that reproduce harm and negative outcomes for people from minoritized racial and ethnic groups at critical points of access and advancement. This action should include a review of evaluation criteria and decision-making practices (i.e., in admissions, hiring and wage-setting, promotion and advancement) to understand if and to what degree existing standards perpetuate underlying racial and ethnic inequities.
Federal funding agencies, private philanthropies, and other grantmaking organizations should provide increased opportunities for grants, awards, and other forms of support to increase understanding of how Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) support students and faculty. Notably, one issue for further investigation should be understanding the core principles of MSI-based programs and how to translate them to predominantly White institutions of higher education and other STEMM organizations. In addition, predominately White institutions should seek sustainable partnerships with all MSIs.
To understand the relative persistence of students in STEM higher education, data collection organizations, such as the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics and the National Center for Education Statistics, should collect and share online with the public information on the demographics of students entering college planning to study STEM and their subsequent educational outcomes, disaggregated by race and ethnicity, gender, and field of study, including:
Visit Chapter 8 of the report to learn more about understanding organizations and the role of leadership in developing a culture of ADEI.
Leaders of STEMM organizations and directors of human resource offices can improve people from minoritized group’s individual and interpersonal experiences in STEMM educational and professional environments through the following practices:
The economic prosperity of the United States and that of its residents depends on the nation’s continued success in STEMM.
Pursuing careers in STEM fields is highly attractive for a number of reasons. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an increase in STEM and medical occupations compared to non-STEM ones (2022). Also, STEM jobs typically have higher-than-average wages than non-STEM jobs (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2022) and employment rates that are more resistant to economic shocks (Board, 2021).
STEMM organizations in the U.S. operate within the overall context of the nation’s history, which provides critical context for understanding the unequal representation of minoritized populations in STEMM higher education and workplaces.
Visit Chapter 2 of the report to learn more about the historical and current context of racism in the United States.
From the 1870s to the 1960s, “Jim Crow” laws enforced segregation of Black individuals in the realms of schooling, transportation, public accommodations, and in access to public facilities. In 1896, in Plessy vs. Ferguson, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of establishing “separate but equal” facilities for Black persons and White persons—yet, in practice, these facilities were often far from equal.
Between 1882 and 1968, 3,446 African Americans were lynched in the United States (Tuskegee University Archives Repository, 2010). Many victims were falsely accused of rape, murder, robbery, or other serious crimes, while others were lynched for perceived disrespect of White individuals.
In many locales, when Black individuals started to gain ownership of small businesses and began to accrue wealth, White individuals would often respond by forming mobs, burning down the business district, raping and/or murdering Black people, and running all surviving Black individuals out of town.
As many as one-third of Black-owned land in the South was passed from generation to generation as “heir’s property” without a deed (Dreier & Ba Tran, 2021).
As a result, many Black families in the rural South were denied Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) loans when a natural disaster damaged their homes because they did not have a deed to their home, which was required to obtain a FEMA loan.
The term redlining refers to the red marks that were made on maps to indicate neighborhoods that were comprised of predominately or a significant proportion of African American individuals.
The racist practice of redlining, a legacy of policies enacted during the Great Depression and post-World War II, codified racial and ethnic segregation in ways that that still affect people from minoritized groups today.
During the Great Migration from the 1920s to 1970s, some six million Black Americans left the repressive conditions in the South for employment opportunities in northern and western cities. Of the Black persons living outside of the South, 90% lived in urban areas (Farley, 1987).
Under the terms of the Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC), lenders had to consider the riskiness of the neighborhoods in which properties were located based on color-coded “Residential Security Maps” that HOLC officials and local Realtors created. Black neighborhoods, and adjacent neighborhoods, were colored red, designating that they were excessively risky and therefore ineligible for HOLC-backed loans (Rothstein, 2018).
The Federal Housing Authority (FHA) loan program, which relied on the color-coded Residential Security Maps, encouraged the use of racial covenants to protect FHA-insured homes, and included other provisions that disincentivized investment in Black neighborhoods.
By 1940, nearly 90% of Black Americans lived in redlined neighborhoods (Krimmel, 2018), and of the $120 billion in FHA loans issued between 1934 and 1962, only 2% went to non-White families (Solomon et al., 2019).
In the decades after the Civil War, Black students were prohibited from attending Southern colleges because of Jim Crow laws and legal segregation, and they had limited access to Northern schools because of quota systems.
Though there were exceptions, Black students did not begin to enter predominantly White colleges and universities until the 1960s. In the 1970s, institutions of higher education in the U.S. abolished segregation for non-White students (Byrd-Chichester, 2000; Halperin, 2019).
The segregated system of higher education turned away 55% of the 1.2 million Black veterans who served in World War II who were seeking the educational benefits of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 – known as the “GI Bill” (Perea, 2015). While 28% of White veterans went to college on the GI Bill, only 12% of Black soldiers did so (Turner & Bound, 2002).
Schools in non-White neighborhoods received less funding since public school funding relied heavily—and still relies heavily—on local property taxes that are based largely on property values.
Districts and schools currently located in formerly redlined neighborhoods receive almost $2,500 less per pupil in combined federal, state, and local funding, and report lower average math and reading test scores compared with districts and schools located in neighborhoods that were not redlined, according to a 2021 study from the Annenberg Institute at Brown University (Lukes & Cleveland, 2021).
Black college graduates owe an average of $25,000 more in student loan debt than White college graduates, according to a study by the Education Data Initiative (Hanson, 2022).
Among STEM Ph.D. recipients, Black graduates were more than twice as likely as White, Asian, and multi-racial graduates to have debt exceeding $30,000 (Zeiser et al., 2013).
The United States Department of Justice found that as compared to White men, Black men were 5.7 times as likely to be in imprisoned in 2020. Black men aged 18-19 were 12.5 times as likely to be imprisoned, as compared to White men of the same age range (Carson, 2021). While more than 25% of people arrested for drug law violations—the most frequent reason for incarceration—were Black people, drug use rates to not differ substantially by race and ethnicity (Edwards et al., 2020).
Unemployment rates for formerly incarcerated Black men and Black women were 35% and 43 %, respectively, compared to 18% and 23% for White men and White women, respectively (U.S. Council of Economic Advisors, 2008).
Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
Fred Kavli Endowment Fund
Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation
National Institutes of Health
National Science Foundation
Ralph J. Cicerone and Carol M. Cicerone Endowment for NAS Missions
Rita Allen Foundation
Shanahan Family Charitable Foundation