OUT NOW: Your Future in Healthcare 2024!

    Everyone is Welcome in STEM

    Posted by Monica Dutcher

    There’s no doubt that careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are exciting opportunities for individuals to make scalable, tangible and positive impacts in daily life around the world. From medicine to infrastructure, from space to sea, the sectors in which STEM graduates can dream big and affect change are limitless.

    In order for these advancements to be the best they can be ー to truly benefit everyone and forge a safer, more dynamic and inclusive future ー the involvement and contributions of women and minority groups are critical. Unfortunately, this demographic is grossly underrepresented in college STEM programs and, subsequently, in the field. 

    For example, according to research by the American Association of University Women, girls and women are systematically tracked away from science and math throughout their education, limiting their access, preparation and opportunities to go into these fields as adults. As a result, women comprise only 34% of the STEM workforce. 

    The good news is that progress is being made. In 2023, the National Science Foundation published a comprehensive report about diversity in STEM, which found that the share of women and underrepresented minorities in the STEM workforce increased ー and at a faster rate than men’s ー between 2011 and 2021. Collectively, underrepresented minorities ー Hispanics, Blacks and American Indians or Alaska Natives — represented nearly a quarter (24%) of the STEM workforce in 2021, up from 18% in 2011.

    The following organizations, opportunities and people are helping to fuel this positive trend. 

    STEM Programs, Scholarships for Girls and Minority Youth

    Several initiatives, advocacy organizations and institutions are combating the myth of the “math brain” — research shows no innate cognitive biological differences between men and women in math — and the fact that many girls lose confidence in math by the third grade. 

    “I think some girls do not consider STEM because they find it intimidating,” said Dylann Volz, a college student who participated in Cornell Engineering's CURIE Academy, a one-week summer residential STEM program for high-school girls. 

    “It was definitely exciting to participate in a program with such passionate and bright young women,” she recalled. “STEM is a place for all and should not be defined by gender or any other social construct. I would recommend all girls trying something like the CURIE Academy because you never know what might excite you, get your gears turning or help you find a passion you never knew you had. Placing yourself somewhere to learn about new things will push the envelope of what you thought you could accomplish.”

    Some other programs to consider include:

    Scholarships & Internships

    • Out to Innovate™ Scholarships are intended for LGBTQ+ undergraduate and graduate students pursuing degrees in STEM programs.
    • The Society of Women Engineers has a number of scholarships available to women studying engineering or a related topic at any level of college.
    • Entry Point! recruits students with apparent and non-apparent disabilities who are majoring in science, engineering, mathematics, and computer science for 10-week summer internships.
    • The Development Fund for Black Students in Science and Technology is an endowment fund which provides scholarships to African American undergraduate students who enroll in scientific or technical fields of study at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
    • IO Scholarships offers free STEM scholarship information and educational resources for Hispanic Americans, African Americans, American Indians/Alaska Natives and Asian American Pacific Islander students.

    Inspiring Role Models

    To encourage women and minorities to pursue careers in STEM, it helps for them to see people like them being celebrated and succeeding in those fields — even leveraging their positions and talents to improve the quality of life for minorities, both now and for the future. Countless innovators are trailblazing in this arena, at every level, including:

      • Akilah Darden, founder and president of The Darden Group, LLC, with a B.S. in architectural engineering and an MBA from Marymount University. She paid it forward when she authored “My Mom is a Construction Manager, which aims to inspire youth to pursue their dreams, no matter the obstacles. 
      • Whitney Jardine, a corporate welding engineer, is gearing up to be the first female in her company’s tooling engineering department. In 2017, she was the sole recipient of Canada’s national Hugh A. Krentz Student Award, rewarding exemplary academic excellence, a demonstrated passion for welding and career interest in the welding industry.
    • Martine Rothblatt, the “Trans-Everything CEO,” is the founder and chairwoman of the board of United Therapeutics and the top-earning CEO of the biopharmaceutical industry. She was also the creator of SiriusXM Satellite Radio and the CEO of GeoStar. She is known for her advocacy of transhumanism and the potential for technological immortality. 
    • Shanteka Glover, senior IT technical and business analyst at Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, LLC, is a co-founder of the Savannah River Site Women in Nuclear (SRS-WIN) chapter in Aiken, South Carolina. The chapter has grown from less than 20 members to more than 500. 
    • Amanda Ayles is the product manager for HCSS HeavyBid and a 2022 Pathfinder Award recipient. She’s made a point to increase diversity in product feedback sessions by making sure the women who are affected by new software have had a chance to speak before anyone can say the conversation is over.

    Empowering Employers

    With society’s calls for more diversity, equity and inclusions in the workplace, many employers are responding ー through their policies, recruitment and retention practices, community involvement and internships. One shining example is FOXXSTEM, a D.C.-based engineering consultant that plans, develops and builds sustainable infrastructure. 

    In her first summer at Howard University, Rhea Douglas, a civil engineering major from Jamaica, struggled to source internships that worked with international students, especially ones without experience. Her professors recommended she reach out to Keith Foxx, FOXXSTEM founder. He offered her an intensive  40-hour-per-week internship. 

    “We know that if we put Rhea in positions to succeed, we can accelerate and multiply her success,” said Foxx.  “Our clients are diverse and our workforce should reflect that same diversity,” he continued.


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    Monica Dutcher