has released a compendium, Title IX & STEM: Promising Practices for Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics,40 which presents best practices for universities in improving outreach, admissions, and retention of women in tenure-track positions.
Van Wazer called on the academic community to commit to working with federal agencies and the private sector to identify and deploy the most effective solutions, ensuring that women scientists and engineers have the flexibility and support to enter and remain in the highest levels of research careers. She called on senior women, and senior women of color in particular, to step forward and mentor the next generation of girls who will be those who advance future U.S. scientific and technological innovation. Van Wazer emphasized the need to recognize accomplished women of color in science and technology. She asked the audience to submit nominations for Presidential awards of outstanding scientists who are women of color, noting that Presidential awards are given for accomplishments at many points along STEM career pathways and for a variety of types of achievement.
After Van Wazer’s opening talk, Bernadette Gray-Little introduced the session noting that in the United States, diversity in the general population is increasing and will continue. By 2050, ethnic/racial minorities will make up 54 percent of the population. Universities are seeing the trend reflected in their enrollment; however, scientific and academic communities do not show corresponding levels of diversity. Thus, students see too few role models and have difficulty envisioning success. In large numbers they are choosing not to pursue science and technology or to leave those paths early.
Gray-Little expressed her concern that the nation is not taking full advantage of all citizens, and she reiterated the comment offered earlier that the country needs “all hands on deck.” Given that the country is currently missing out on the knowledge, experience, and contributions of many of our citizens, she posed the question of how we maximize the talents of a wider range of citizens for the benefit of the nation and the world.
She noted that the salient question is not about diversity for diversity’s sake, but rather about utilizing the unique experiences and perspectives that women of color bring, and making sure that opportunities are available for their full participation and contribution to science and society.
NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
Jeri Buchholz, NASA’s chief human capital officer, introduced NASA’s mission as being to ask and answer the most difficult scientific and technical questions ever asked by humankind, find solutions to those problems, make it possible for the resulting technologies to be turned over to the commercial sector, and promote new industries in the private sector. She described how diversity and inclusion permeate every management and program decision at NASA and noted that NASA plays a leadership role within the federal government regarding the employment of people in STEM fields.
At NASA, 89 percent of the workforce is in the fields of aerospace technology and engineering. Women of color make up 5.6 percent of NASA’s workforce, a percentage that NASA is working to increase and which Buchholz noted is more than twice that of the relevant civilian labor force, at 2.3 percent. To “move the needle” and substantially increase the
40 NASA. 2009. Title IX & STEM: Promising Practices for Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Accessed October 21, 2013 online: http://odeo.hq.nasa.gov/documents/71900_HI-RES.8-4-09.pdf