Charge to the Workshop

Executive Summary

Part I: The STEM Workforce: Establishing the Need for Change

Under-Representation as a Social Justice Issue

Current Lack of Diversity and Opportunity

Part II: The STEM Pathways Workshop: Describing the Change

Broad Issues Related to the STEM Workforce

From Successful Programs to Large-Scale Change

The Contributions of

An Action Plan

Part III: Conclusion: Toward a New Vision for the Enterprise of Science


Appendix: Workshop Attendees


Current Lack of Diversity and Opportunity

The members of groups under-represented in STEM careers, including women, African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and persons with disabilities, face multiple and reinforcing obstacles if they choose to pursue these professions. Though many of these individuals have the greatest educational needs, they tend to be the least well served by the K-12 educational system. Quantitative capability is a significant “digital divide” for many U.S. students, noted one workshop participant. Except for non-Hispanic White women, students from under-represented groups are more likely than other students to emerge from pre-college education without the mathematical and scientific background needed to achieve later educational and career success in these fields. More broadly, a lack of social capital and status can be critical factors for pre-college students. For example, many people now in STEM careers had access to professionals who were in similar fields and could offer advice and support, but fewer minorities have such resources. Similarly, majority students often can draw on family connections or other points of contact in their pursuit of high quality preparation for work in STEM fields; this is not the case for many underrepresented minority students (NSF, 2004b). More obstacles can be encountered during the undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate years, leading to gradually declining percentages of underrepresented minorities at the higher levels of academia in science and engineering. For example, though the representation of women in some fields has increased, in other fields they remain severely under represented ((National Science Foundation, 2004b,c; National Science Board, 2004). Research into the causes for this reveals that there are many complex and inter-related factors that contribute to this under-representation. They begin with early socialization of young women away from an interest in STEM, self-selection out of math and science courses in college, and multiple barriers encountered in graduate school and in the workforce that inhibit their desire to participate in STEM-related careers (Byer, Rynes and Haller, 2004;Weinburger, 2004).

Workshop participants pointed out that mathematics and science education can be great equalizers for underrepresented minority and low-income students with disabilities. Proficiency in these fields can enable them to excel in school and gain fulfilling and rewarding jobs. In addition, new information technologies have the potential to remove some of the obstacles to achievement for under-represented groups. However, research has shown that students from under-represented groups often need extra encouragement and mentoring to realize these skills and benefits.