The Science of Color: Black & Brown Girls in STEM

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If current statistics provide any indication, the idea of black and brown girls in STEM seems far-fetched. Look at any data report out there, and you’ll find that women remain underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and math.

According to a recent census report, only 24% of women in the workforce make their living in STEM careers.

That number is astounding. But if you’re looking for your jaw to hit the floor, stir racial demographics into the scenario.

When it comes to economic sustainability, STEM fields open the pathway. The more advanced the degree is, the higher income it generates. So why are we relegating black and brown girls to lesser paying careers?

In 2012, white women earned 6,777 PhDs in STEM fields. On the other hand, white men earned 8,478 PhD degrees. For African American women, that number dwindles to 684—10 times fewer scientific doctorates than their white counterparts. With only 3.5% of STEM bachelor degrees, Latina women face an even larger obstacle.

STEM fields show an absence of women in color, which leaves us with two questions that need to be answered.

  1. Why are black and brown girls underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math?
  2. What can we do to bridge this inequity?

Why Women of Color Are Missing in STEM

The short answer: the problem starts in childhood. We need to encourage girls NOW so that they grow into smart, capable, and driven women who take their rightful place in the world of science, technology, engineering, and math.

Even though I run my own tech-based company, I nearly walked down the path many other girls of color have to. For me, it was the social ills and stereotypes of the 70’s that molded girls and women into secretaries and housewives, instead scientists and tech entrepreneurs.

Thanks to my tenacious, unyielding, resilient, mom, I escaped the “pink collar” fate society had created for me!

When it comes time for college, the damage is already done for most young women of color.

At an early point in their academic life, girls see the creativity and imagination drain from STEM curriculum. Science and math becomes only series of numbers, temperatures, and chemical components.

When educators can blend creativity with hard sciences, young women take on leadership roles.

However, this is not the only reason why there’s a tremendous gap for women of color in STEM. Though there have been vast improvements—especially in education—systemic racism is still a major issue that affects black and brown girls every day of their lives.

If a human being feels less important than their peers, their confidence falls by the wayside.

How Do We Reverse the Trend?

If the problem starts in childhood, that’s where we start the repair process. Parents and educators can usher young women (especially black and brown girls) into STEM careers with lifestyle-driven educational programs that ignite creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication.

These initiatives include…

  • Afterschool studios for girls! Research shows that girls do better in math and science in all-girl settings.
  • Workshops that ignite creativity and critical thinking! STEAM Saturdays are the best days to engage girls in project based learning activities that gives an exceptional chemistry experience.
  • Empowering girls with real STEAM enrichment programs! Implement programs that are standards-based, best-practiced, project-based, and requires critical and divergent thinking.

The Time to Act is Now

STEM careers provide the future leaders of our world with not only money, but also power. Girls—especially young women of color—can and should be the next scientists who cure diseases, explore space, and create impactful technology.

But there’s no time to lose. With the tremendous inequity that black and brown girls face in STEM, educators and parents have to inspire them early. It’s up to us to show them just how much they’re worth.

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