STEM fields continue to lack representation of minorities and the problem is rooted in the underfunding of STEM programs in low-income communities that are predominantly Black and Hispanic. To have a sustainable STEM program, schools need equipment that are often expensive and unattainable. Due to lack of funding, minority students fall behind in admissions for STEM-related programs and majors. Increasing minority representation in STEM fields, requires an increase in exposure to STEM for minority students starting as early as possible. But before we discuss increasing exposure, we need to first understand the meaning of S.T.E.M and its underlying importance.
What Exactly is STEM?
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
STEM careers are important to foster innovation and innovation affords us with new products and services that ensures society’s sustainability and continued development. Due to the rate of our technological and scientific advancement, STEM fields and careers are becoming increasingly important. Technology is pervasive in our lives and to maintain and improve that technology requires progression in research, innovation and development through STEM education and jobs.
According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics, STEM jobs are projected to grow by 10.8% between 2016 and 2026 compared to the 7.4% of regular jobs. As it stands, 69% of STEM jobs are held by Caucasians, only 9% by African-Americans and 7% by Hispanics.
To increase minority representation in STEM fields, there needs to be an emphasis on STEM programs and their importance in low-income communities for minorities.
Why are STEM Programs Important?
According to the Smithsonian Science Education Center, “78% of high school graduates don't meet benchmark readiness for one or more college courses in Mathematics or Science.”
High schools in low-income communities struggle to get funding for STEM programs and this leads to their inability to offer students exposure to STEM-related concepts and subjects. Subsequently, students aren't afforded the opportunity to develop STEM-related capabilities needed to prepare them for college-level coursework in STEM majors.
STEM programs in schools and communities give students the chance to develop and maintain an interest in STEM fields and careers. STEM education allows students to increase their awareness of the importance of careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math in our ever-changing technological world and opens the doors for students to pursue higher education in the relative STEM majors.
An exposure to STEM concepts and education also allows students to increase their self-efficacy and self-confidence in pursuing a higher education and career in STEM fields.
The Dorson Community Foundation offers STEM programming as a part of its new Dorson Scholars Program. This initiative is meant to broaden the eyes of our students to the scope of STEM careers and to address the underrepresentation of African-Americans and Hispanics in STEM fields and the lack of mentors and role models for STEM-interested students.