Gender and Race/Ethnic Representation in STEM Fields

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2020-05-13

Authors

Sucoff, Perri

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Abstract

The STEM fields have become increasingly popular due to the relevance, competitive, and rigorous nature of the fields as well as the availability of jobs in the workforce. The most common and traditional path to enter the STEM workforce is to major in one of the many STEM disciplines. Despite overall increased interest in STEM, women and people of color are still significantly underrepresented. It is essential to increase diversity and representation in STEM careers because diversity is proven to increase creativity, productivity and uniqueness of thought. Many longitudinal studies have investigated specific factors that influence disproportionate representation in STEM. Although there is not one clear cause of inequality, research finds that student and teacher attitudes, the availability of STEM role models, and academic preparation have had significant impact on this in the past. After analyzing the current literature regarding factors contributing to underrepresentation in STEM, this thesis analyzes current longitudinal data from US public high schools. The level of high school mathematics offered and taken by students has a significant impact on their preparedness to enter STEM fields, and this has implications for increasing racial diversity. The underrepresentation of females and racial/ethnic minorities in STEM is apparent to experts in the field, and many current solutions have been instituted in order to attempt to increase diversity in the field. However, no existing solution is perfect due to the complexity of the issue.

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