5.4 DIVERSIFYING THE WORKFORCE

Geoengineering faces important professional issues that go beyond redefinition and integration of science developed in other scientific disciplines. These issues are related to the engineering profession’s own sustainability and its ability to develop effective solutions to complex, multifaceted problems. Advancing toward meaningful solutions to technical problems with social dimensions requires that those who will undertake research into these engineering problems and who will implement the solutions in practice are representative of the society that experiences the problems. Whereas the profession has advanced significantly in issues of diversity compared with the situation 30 years ago, the faces of the profession still do not reflect the faces of our population. NSF, historically a key player in invigorating action related to issues of workforce diversity, must work in new ways to remotivate the geoengineering community to address this problem.

NSF has supported and strongly encouraged diversity through its program expectations and its funding priorities for the last 30 years, with a commitment that has exceeded any other federal research funding entity. Nonetheless, career paths of women and minorities through undergraduate and graduate education and through faculty careers in science and engineering have not led to the progress toward equity and representation that had been envisaged (Nelson, 2002). William Wulf, president of the National Academy of Engineering, argued that it is not merely a case of fairness to open the engineering profession to the full population. Nor is it merely the need to draw from the largest possible pool of high academic achievers in our society. He argued that “one’s creativity is bounded by one’s life experiences” (http://www.brynmawr.edu/womeninscience/keynoteaddress.html). Diversity in the engineering workforce, where diversity is defined both in visible measures (racial and gender diversity) and in invisible measures (through diverse life experience), is key to optimizing engineering solutions to increasingly challenging problems. If engineers expect to be the creative leaders in addressing society’s problems, it is imperative that society draw from and



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement