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Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America’s Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads
they are also the most rapidly growing segment of the population. GatheringStorm provided compelling recommendations for sustaining and increasing our knowledge workforce as part of a larger plan to sustain the nation’s scientific and technological leadership. These workforce recommendations focused on improving K-12 STEM education as well as providing incentives for students to pursue S&E education at the undergraduate and graduate levels.2 We fully support these recommendations, but they are insufficient to meet the emerging demographic realities. The United States stands again at the crossroads: A national effort to sustain and strengthen S&E must also include a strategy for ensuring that we draw on the minds and talents of all Americans, including minorities who are underrepresented in S&E and currently embody a vastly underused resource and a lost opportunity for meeting our nation’s technology needs.
Citing the need to develop a strong and diverse S&E workforce, U.S. Senators Edward Kennedy, Barbara Mikulski, Patty Murray, and Hillary Clinton requested in November 2006 a study of underrepresented minority participation in S&E. The U.S. Congress later included this request as a mandate in the 2007 America COMPETES Act, charging the study committee to explore the role of diversity in the STEM workforce and its value in keeping America innovative and competitive, analyze the rate of change and the challenges the nation currently faces in developing a strong and diverse workforce, and identify best practices and the characteristics of these practices that make them effective and sustainable.
AMERICA’S SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING TALENTAT THE CROSSROADS
Broad Participation Matters
A strategy to increase the participation of underrepresented minorities in science and engineering should play a central role in our approach to sustaining America’s research and innovation capacity for at least three reasons:
Our sources for the future S&E workforce are uncertain: For many years, the nation relied on an S&E workforce that was predominantly male and overwhelmingly white and Asian. In the more recent past, as the proportion of the S&E workforce that is white and male has fluctuated, we have seen gains for women in some fields and an increasing reliance on international students in others. Non-U.S. citizens, particularly those from China and India, have accounted for almost all growth in STEM doctorate