Minorities in STEM (part 1)

Jeremy Bamidele

Jeremy Bamidele

In 2013, Forbes magazine published an article titled, ‘For Metros with Flourishing Economies, Tech Sector at Center of Job Growth,’ the statement is as true then as it is now. Technology jobs are poised to outnumber jobs in almost every other sector. While this change holds benefits to some communities, it poses an economic barrier to others.

“The job skills gap is increasingly widening, and if something does not change, many of our people (African Americans) will remain obsolete in the new economy,” according to Jeremiah J. White Jr., president of iPraxis, a Philadelphia based nonprofit dedicated to expanding minority job employment and entrepreneurship in STEM: science, technology, engineering and math. Women, African Americans, and Latinos are currently greatly underrepresented in the STEM fields, especially computer science and engineering jobs, which comprise eighty percent of all STEM jobs. If this trend of under-representation continues, the lack of education and training in these fields will generate a lower class as much defined by income as by race and gender.

Increasing the amount of minority and female representation in the STEM field is twofold; first, opportunities to train in STEM must be targeted towards these groups; second, the job market must be willing to accept non-traditional STEM applicants, i.e. neither Asian nor White and male. While several initiatives have been proposed and are currently being executed to increase minority representation in the education department, little has been done to increase the likelihood of these groups finding STEM jobs afterwards.

According to the U.S. census, “Among science and engineering graduates, men are employed in a STEM occupation at twice the rate of women: 31% compared with 15%. Nearly one in five female science and engineering graduates are out of the labor force, compared with less than one in 10 male science and engineering graduates.” Growth in the amount of female STEM employees has stalled in recent decades, with the majority of currently working female STEM employees originally being recruited into the industry from the 1940’s to 1990’s. Proportionally both Blacks and Hispanics should compose twice as much of STEM employees as they currently do.

While most corporate jobs are filled by human resources or business heads, the technology department tends to differ in this respect. Technology departments typically grant hiring authority to senior engineers who then select the next generation of engineers for the company. On one hand this can improve efficiency, as a group tailored to the individual engineers working styles can be selected. On the other hand, since those in the STEM field are more likely to be politically conservative, they are also more likely to select workers most like themselves who then go on to become senior employees and repeat the pattern.

Minority employment in the STEM field will most likely not increase as much as projected until the position of employing new STEM staff is outsourced to human resources, who statistically are less apt than engineers to only select those who mirror themselves. Unfortunately, human resources staffs are unequipped to identify the existence and proficiency of skills needed to carry out STEM jobs. Consequently, companies must impose quotas or suggestions to senior STEM staff to diversify whom they choose to work under them.

(Jeremy Bamidele is a nationally syndicated journalist. He can be reached at <JeremyB@JournalistInLosAngeles.com>.)