Underrepresentation of Women and Students of Color in STEM

In: STEM Education 2.0

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The underrepresentation of women and racialized minorities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines endures. In response, research, policy initiatives, STEM Enrichment programs, school and teacher education programs, and after-school activities were implemented to address this need. Nonetheless, women and people of color remain markedly underrepresented in many aspects of STEM and studies often fail to discuss the interplay of the institutional, societal, and systemic contributors to this disparity. Our purpose with this chapter is to shed light on the ways in which these broader contextual factors influence girls’ perceptions of, engagement with, and subsequent participation and persistence in STEM education. Identification and delineation of elements of the problem are important, but it is also critical for educators to consider ways to ameliorate these issues. For a girl to successfully pursue a STEM career path, she must first be able to see it as possible, then embrace it as an aspect of her identity and be provided with the resources to boldly traverse this pathway. Ensuring that girls receive support for STEM career development early, thereby building awareness of the range of possible STEM professions, how lucrative they are, and details on what the career pathway entails is essential for setting goals. Given the role identity development plays in shaping interest and engagement, it is imperative that minority girls have opportunities to connect with STEM professionals with whom they can identify. We further discuss promising practices for addressing inequities in the chapter.

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