Industry leaders face a critical challenge in ensuring that talented scientists and engineers from underrepresented populations are recruited to the industrial workforce, remain employed in that sector, and advance throughout their careers. These employees bring a diversity of views and thus benefit the companies for which they work as well as industry as a whole. Efforts to address the challenge of securing talented employees from underrepresented population groups begin by encouraging girls and young people of color to become interested in science and engineering at an early age. These efforts must then continue by ensuring their success through high school and postsecondary education in science- and engineering-related disciplines, fostering their continuous employment in these fields, and building a sense of pride among these employees in their companies’ science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) activities and diverse workforce. Connecting each stage to the next requires the active involvement of leaders in industry, academia, professional organizations, and other stakeholders. Three industry executives actively engaged in efforts to recruit, retain, and advance underrepresented men and women participated in a panel discussion to share their best practices and suggestions for action.
Barry Cordero, principal project engineer at Medtronic and national vice president of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), offered examples of how his company has worked with professional societies and employee resource groups and networks to recruit, retain, and advance talented minority and women scientists and engineers. In addition to traditional approaches to recruit potential employees as college seniors graduating from science and engineering programs, Medtronic draws on employee resource groups, professional associations, and networks to assist with their recruitment and advancement strategy. One such group, the Medtronic Latino Culture Network (MLCNet),1 has members from all professional fields and backgrounds who consider themselves Hispanic or Latino. Because Medtronic is a technical company, many of the network’s members are engineers. Among other things, MLCNet conveys the members’ cultural perspective to the company, an important contribution as Latin America is one of the fastest growing markets for Medtronic.
Cordero then described SHPE, which aims to “[change] lives by empowering the Hispanic community to realize its fullest potential and to impact the world through STEM awareness,
1Cordero also cited the National Society of Black Engineers, American Indian Science and Engineering Society, Society of Women Engineers, SHPE, Great Minds in STEM, Mexican American Engineering Society, and Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science as examples of organizations that Medtronic works with on a regular basis.
access, support and development.” The professional association was developed by those who support the goal of helping women and underrepresented minorities find and secure jobs in companies and, once there, remain employed and advance. SHPE pursues its mission through company chapters across the United States.
Establishing and maintaining effective mentorship for S&E women and underrepresented minorities (URMs) in the industrial workforce remains a challenge—one that SHPE company chapters try to address, often as a complement to corporate mentoring efforts. A further difficulty facing companies that wish to hire and keep Hispanic S&E employees is the relatively small pool of candidates from which they can hire. Moreover, once hired by a company, for many Hispanic employees, not unlike other employees, the decision to stay is often influenced by their ability to engage in activities that matter to them.
Sylvester Mendoza, Jr., corporate director for diversity and inclusion and EEO at Northrop Grumman Corporation, underscored the need for mentorship and added that in his experience coaching and sponsorship2 also are critical to retaining and advancing women and underrepresented minority scientists and engineers in industry. All three—mentorship, coaching, and sponsorship—are essential, he said, if Northrop Grumman and others are going to meet the challenges laid out by the National Defense Industrial Association (Box 2-1). He argued that industry needs to hire individuals from underrepresented groups in order to survive amid US demographic shifts.
Mendoza explained that Northrop Grumman is attempting to address the challenge of diversity3: 28 percent of all employees are women and 29 percent are people of color. Of the company’s engineers, 16 percent are women and 28 percent people of color, and of its computer scientists, 22 percent are women and 30 percent people of color. He acknowledged, however, that these underrepresented populations hold fewer positions farther up the corporate ladder, and speculated that the underrepresentation might be due in part to self-perceptions and/or to feelings of marginalization after three to five years working at the company. Efforts such as this workshop can help address this, he said.
Rick Stephens, senior vice president for human resources and administration at the Boeing Company, began by stating that people are the company’s most valuable resource, enabling the company to compete in the marketplace; their diversity of perspectives is greatly valued. The challenge, however, is to get everyone engaged and involved. Boeing has attempted to address this challenge through its Global Diversity and Employee Rights office, which opened ten years
2Sponsorship, mentoring, and coaching, while related, play different roles in career advancement, particularly for women and URMs. Sponsorship is an active support by someone appropriately placed in the organization who has significant influence on decision-making processes or structures and who is advocating for, protecting, and fighting for the career advancement of an individual. The benefits of mentoring generally include personal support, role modeling, and friendship. While a mentor may be a sponsor, sponsors go beyond the traditional social, emotional, and personal growth development provided by many mentors. See: Catalyst. 2011. Sponsoring Women to Success. New York, NY: Catalyst; and Herminia Ibarra, Nancy M. Carter, and Christine Silva. September 2010. “Why Men Still Get More Promotions than Women.” Harvard Business Review, pp. 80-85. Coaching begins with agreement on goals, and moving on to an action plan. It is usually instructional, with a particular goal of focus, such as developing technical or soft skills, or it can be used as a way to train someone on a discrete task or series of tasks. See: Luecke, R., and I. Herminia. 2004. Harvard Business Essentials: Coaching and Mentoring: How to Develop Top Talent and Achieve Stronger Performance. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press; and Frankel, B. February 2011. “What’s the difference between mentoring, coaching and sponsorship?” DiversityInc. Magazine, p. 23.
3For more information regarding Northrop Grumman’s efforts, see: www.northropgrumman.com/corporate-responsibility/diversity/index.html (accessed March 31, 2014).
ago and reports directly to Stephens. Through this office, processes and procedures are established to identify and address issues related to recruitment, retention, and advancement.
Box 2-1 Challenges Identified by the National Defense Industrial Association
- Aerospace and defense (A&D) workforce is losing jobs due to a shrinking federal defense budget and not gaining new young professionals due to a lack of retirements.
- The long-term outlook is different but not well known.
- The demographics of our domestic population are shifting:
- The historically majority-white United States is transitioning to a more racially/ethnically diverse populace.
- The school-age population is especially reflective of this trend.
- This new labor pool has to be tapped to continue US dominance in STEM fields.
- Underrepresented minority groups constituted 28.5 percent of our national population in 2006, but only 9.1 percent of college-educated Americans in science and engineering occupations (academic and nonacademic).4
- The A&D industry draws from an increasingly diverse pool of candidates.
- Not all potential STEM talent is activated because of unfortunate social misperceptions.
SOURCE: Mendoza, workshop presentation.
Boeing has also hosted an annual Diversity Summit for the last ten years. The summit, attended by about 1,000 people, has two objectives: to share the company’s position on diversity and to provide training on subjects such as differing cultural perspectives, how to find a mentor, and what it means to be ready for development and advancement. Boeing now requires that employees who wish to attend the summit be accompanied by their managers, in order to bring the two groups together and raise awareness among managers. Each year 90 percent of those who attend are first-time participants. In addition to affinity groups for women and those of various ethnicities, Boeing will soon offer affinity groups for members of the military.
Stephens explained Boeing’s progress in workforce diversity. The primary statistic that the company tracks is the number of women and URMs who are executives at the vice president level and above: 24 percent are women and 10 percent minorities. These statistics are reported to senior leadership quarterly to ensure progress. Growth of 2 percent to 3 percent is considered a success, and if this rate is not achieved, senior leaders attempt to understand the problem. While the company is fairly good at promotions, leadership is concerned about the ability of a sufficient pipeline of women and minority scientists and engineers to continue to advance. Retention is essential; at the most junior level, women and minorities make up 40 percent to 50 percent of Boeing’s employees, but they need to advance through the pipeline.
One of the best ways to assist this advancement is for employees to be paired with a good mentor with whom they can have honest conversations about what it takes to move forward. Boeing takes mentoring so seriously that all of the 288 executives at the vice president level must
mentor a minimum of two employees, and 50 percent of the mentees must be women and minorities, said Stephens. The effects of these efforts are being seen throughout the company, although weakness remains at the senior and technical middle-management levels, he noted. Hopefully, mentorship will help. Nonetheless, the first five years—when women, minorities, and other good employees are most likely to leave for other companies—remain the most challenging for employee retention.
Stephens went on to describe his work with Santa Ana High School, located in a predominantly Hispanic area in California. When the school first started the Latino Educational Attainment Program, students’ college readiness rate was 17 percent. After joining together with the Orange County Register, local business leaders, local churches, and other organizations, the school doubled that rate in five years.
The program revealed that cultural perceptions and media views of scientists and engineers greatly influenced students’ decisions. To begin to change these perceptions, Boeing works closely with the Entertainment Industries Council on the accuracy of depictions of scientists and engineers in the media. This is important, Stephens explained, because young people spend approximately 50 hours per week connected to media outside the classroom, and it is from media, as well as from parents and friends, that they get their views and perceptions of scientists and engineers, which in turn inform their behavior.
A set of awards has been created to acknowledge those in media for the accuracy of their depictions of science, engineering, and technology. This emphasis on accurate portrayals also benefits the entertainment industry because it too is dependent on scientists, engineers, and technologists and will continue to need capable employees in the future to meet business needs. To facilitate this interaction, Boeing has 20 engineers “on call” for Hollywood to answer questions about the accuracy of depictions of scientists and engineers, who represent 10 percent of all the characters in the media. Of these characters, 70 percent are portrayed as the ones who create the problems (e.g., “mad scientists”). One might well wonder how many of the 4.3 million children born in the United States this year, after watching these media depictions, will choose scientific and engineering careers, Stephens said. He concluded by reiterating the importance of involving media in efforts to recruit future scientists and engineers.
Understanding and Valuing S&E Employees
Participants considered how to build on current best practices to attract, retain, and advance more women and underrepresented minority scientists and engineers in industry.5 The discussion began with the observation by some participants that many young people who obtain STEM degrees either do not work in the field or choose to leave the field, and that to slow this trend it is essential to involve them in organizations that can support them over time.6 If these scientists
5Nonprofit organizations, such as STEM connector, help companies address many of these issues.
6Research questions that may be asked to better understand graduates’ choices include: If only 50 percent of those graduating with S&E degrees are going into S&E careers, what are the leading reasons for this trend? Are there only jobs for 50 percent of the S&E graduates? Are students being offered STEM jobs and turning them down and if so,
and engineers feel marginalized or undervalued, they will opt out of a company to go elsewhere. It is essential that support come from all parts of the company, from the human resources department all the way up to senior management, one participant said. Some underrepresented minorities choose to turn instead to entrepreneurship, which may allow them to advance their S&E careers. While this may be of benefit to the scientists and engineers personally, they are no longer working in the industries that want to retain them.7 It is therefore important to understand the multiple variables that factor into people’s choices over time and to acknowledge that the growing pursuit of entrepreneurial careers in S&E, while important, may impact the technical workforce in many industrial sectors, some participants said.
To that end, it will be useful to better define what engineers do, another participant pointed out. For example, if an engineer spends 90 percent of her time doing something other than engineering, she may not identify as an engineer. The lack of definition affects perceptions of both opportunities and salaries available to those with engineering degrees or backgrounds. In other words, if students or parents have a misunderstanding about what an engineer does, who an engineer is, how engineering skills can be used in the workplace, and what the earning potential of engineers can be, the student may be discouraged from entering the profession. These degrees are foundational and contribute to career success, but if this information is not conveyed well to parents and students, they may not view engineering as a desirable degree or career option. Tackling the problem of perceptions is essential both to make the engineering profession attractive to talented people and to retain them once they are hired.8
Rick Stephens of Boeing observed that engineers are needed in many different fields. Many jobs require some level of technical knowledge, and industry needs to do a better job of attracting women and underrepresented minorities with those skills.
Mentoring, Coaching, Sponsorship
Mentoring is generally the practice of assigning a junior member of staff to receive advice from a more experienced person who assists him or her in navigating a career path. The benefits of mentoring usually include personal support, role modeling, and friendship.9 Coaching begins with agreement on goals and then moves on to an action plan; it is usually instructional, with a particular goal of focus, such as developing technical or soft skills, or it can be used as a way to train someone on a discrete task or series of tasks.10 Sponsorship is active support by someone
why, and for what other fields? Are the graduates in disciplines that are overrepresented in terms of talent needed or at degree attainment levels inconsistent with the desired degree levels?
7For more information on entrepreneurship and S&E, see From Science to Business: Preparing Female Scientists and Engineers for Successful Transitions into Entrepreneurship: Summary of a Workshop (www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13392; accessed March 31, 2014); and The Kauffman Firm Survey: Who Are User Entrepreneurs? Findings on Innovation, Founder Characteristics and Firm Characteristics (www.kauffman.org/research-and-policy/the-kauffman-firm-survey-who-are-user-entrepreneurs-findings-on-innovation-founder-characteristics-and-firm-characteristics.aspx; accessed March 31, 2014).
9Catalyst. 2011. Sponsoring Women to Success. New York: Catalyst; and Herminia Ibarra, Nancy M. Carter, and Christine Silva. September 2010. “Why Men Still Get More Promotions than Women.” Harvard Business Review, pp. 80-85.
10Luecke, R., and I. Herminia. 2004. Harvard Business Essentials: Coaching and Mentoring: How to Develop Top Talent and Achieve Stronger Performance. Boston: Harvard Business Press; and Frankel, B. February 2011. “What’s the difference between mentoring, coaching and sponsorship?” DiversityInc. Magazine, p. 23.
appropriately placed in the organization who has significant influence on decision-making processes or structures and who is advocating for, protecting, and fighting for the career advancement of an individual.11 Mentoring, coaching, and sponsorship, while related, play different roles in career advancement, especially for women and URMs. The impact of sponsors goes beyond the traditional social, emotional, and personal growth development provided by many mentors.
The importance of a combination of mentoring, coaching, and sponsorship12 was reinforced by Mendoza when he described Northrop Grumman’s online and face-to-face mentoring programs. The company has 30 employee resource groups13 with 12,000–13,000 employees enrolled, and these groups are an important way to demonstrate to employees that they are valued in the company. He acknowledged that more needs to be done to track the results of these efforts, but said the company has found that employees who are not part of a buddy system or who are quiet may feel isolated and not learn how to get things done, which will negatively affect their chances of moving ahead in the company. The company is therefore making a concerted effort to ensure that all its employees, particularly those newly hired, have a corporate buddy. As an employee goes forward, coaching and sponsorship should continue as a means of explaining the culture of the company and how to move up—for example, through the development of soft skills. Such skills may, for instance, help technically trained employees better articulate what they do and how they contribute to the company. At each career step in Northrop Grumman’s corporate structure, Mendoza said, the company’s leaders are accountable for their success in retaining and advancing women and URM S&E employees.
Alice Agogino, Roscoe and Elizabeth Hughes Professor of Mechanical Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, noted that mentoring activities are sometimes viewed negatively—for example, as a diversion from the employee’s core activities—so incentives should be provided to encourage and reward active mentorship and to acknowledge the value of employees’ taking the time to be mentors.
Cordero said Medtronic has no formal, centralized mentoring programs but that they are being created, in particular to target women and minorities. In production areas, however, coaching does occur between senior and junior engineers. He has noticed that employees who are not coached tend to seek advancement by going to another company. In addition, there is a perception that the way to advance to management is to get an MBA, so some employees either leave their company or leave engineering, and end up competing for managerial positions that are fewer and fewer as one climbs the corporate ladder.
12For further information on mentoring and sponsorship, see Sponsoring Women to Success (http://catalyst.org/publication/485/sponsoring-women-to-success; accessed March 31, 2014); and Women and the Trouble with Mentors (www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-leadership/women-and-the-trouble-with-mentors/2011/10/14/gIQAeOF7jL_story.html; accessed March 31, 2014).
13Many corporations refer to resource or networking groups as affinity groups. Affinity groups provide forums for employees to gather socially and share ideas outside of their particular business units. In addition to racial, ethnic-background, and gender-based affinity groups, there are also affinity groups that bring together employees based on country of origin, religion, physical disabilities, military service, age, sexual orientation, and many other parameters. See: Bonetta, L. 2008. “Affinity groups for diversity.” Science Careers Magazine; and Forsythe, J. 2004. “Affinity and networking groups.” New York Times (www.nytimes.com/marketing/jobmarket/diversity/affinity.html; accessed March 31, 2014).
Aiding Advancement of Women and URMs
Stephens explained that at Boeing, the policy is to ensure that women and minority candidates are included on all slates for open positions. The company also requires that succession plans include two ready candidates and three candidates in development for each position. Since internal analysis showed that candidates were being counted multiple times when they appeared on multiple slates, candidates are now counted only once. This adjustment better enables the company to ensure a more diverse pipeline of candidates for advancement.
When asked about Boeing’s effectiveness in advancing women and minorities, Stephens replied that the company’s slate process has demonstrated success in doing so. Suzanne Jenniches, vice president and general manager (retired) at Northrop Grumman Corporation, pointed out, however, that often one gets the results that one measures, so it is important to make certain that the actual desired outcome is measured—in this case, the number of women and minorities advancing into middle management.14
The importance of implicit bias was raised. Biases influence how people view their own capabilities and those of diverse employees and can affect attitudes about advancement. Affinity groups and professional associations can help solve this challenge by offering training to recognize implicit bias to industry partners and by including its members in outreach efforts regarding implicit biases. Specifically, discipline-based associations and university liaisons should be called upon to play a larger role in addressing recruitment and retention difficulties, including efforts beyond bias awareness, said one participant.
Cordero referred to his efforts through SHPE to work with discipline-based organizations on outreach to URMs and women who may be candidates for S&E careers to educate and recruit them, but he added that many of these organizations do not focus on diversity and are sometimes not very diverse in their own membership. Constance Thompson, a workshop participant, responded that the discipline-based associations with which she was involved are actively engaged in outreach activities and are searching for opportunities to be more involved. These efforts were applauded by many other workshop participants, who urged that discipline-based organizations, affinity groups, minority-based organizations, and others work together to aid URM S&E employees for both their own benefit and that of industry.
Some companies support employees’ membership in one or more professional organizations. At Northrop Grumman, for example, an employee who wishes to join an organization pays the membership fees of the first organization, and the company pays for subsequent organizations. In this way, an employee expands his or her knowledge and networks, benefiting both the individual and the company.
Retaining Undergraduates in S&E Disciplines
Mendoza suggested that it would be beneficial to further examine where the leaks in the pipeline occur. Stephens reported that some universities with which he has worked have been successful in stopping leaks from undergraduate engineering programs through the following four steps. First, when a student arrives, he/she is put into a group of 50 students with a professor who is responsible for helping the cohort. Second, because math and physics classes have the highest
14Metrics associated with accountability for executives in their success at retaining and advancing women and underrepresented minorities, as well as metrics for efforts to incentivize, reward, recognize, and/or ultimately penalize managers who are unable to meet retention and advancement expectations, seem worth more study.
dropout rates, universities are now asking engineers to teach these classes to emphasize how the skills help solve real-world problems. Third, in the first two years, students are given projects to work on, which helps raise engineering completion rates to 80 percent. Fourth, between their sophomore and junior years, students have internships, which give them a sense of what the profession is actually like, and they can make adjustments in their coursework based on their developing interests in various engineering fields. If the retention rate of students graduating from engineering programs could be increased from 60 to 90 percent, another 30,000 candidates would be added to the pool of engineers from which companies could hire, Stephens said.15
In an effort to promote retention within industry, Boeing created the REACH program, which partners new college-graduate employees with other new employees, regardless of discipline, and provides them with a social network, Stephens continued. There are REACH chapters throughout the company, each of which is supported by an executive. Further, through Boeing’s Leadership Institute, employees learn leaders’ actual experiences and tackle difficult-to-raise topics that are otherwise often avoided. At times, issues of bias and how to better recruit, retain, and promote underrepresented minorities in the S&E workforce are difficult subjects to address.
Outreach to K-12 Students
Workshop participants returned to the fundamental importance of K-12 education. The leadership of school principals and teachers is vital to ensuring that all children, regardless of background or economic means, reach the highest possible levels of academic achievement. Without this critical foundation, there will not be enough qualified people to meet the science and engineering needs of companies going forward.16
By way of illustration, Stephens described an inspirational principal at a lower-income elementary school in Gary, Indiana. The principal’s success was due in large part to her focus on dedication, determination, and discipline for all people in the school, from herself to teachers to students. In addition to leadership by principals, workshop participant Herman White cited the importance of teachers with the necessary capabilities and skills to teach these subjects: skills will enable students to be competitive, and if teachers’ skills improve, those of their students will too.17
15In addition to focusing on retaining students throughout their degree programs, alternatives to internships should be considered because internships are very resource intensive in terms of dollars and human resources. While cost may be prohibitive, exploration of online or virtual “internships,” simulations, and/or gaming experiences might allow for valuable internship experiences for larger numbers of students.
16While difficult and expensive, perhaps this is the time to conduct more longitudinal research on the impact of changes in K-12 education, including implementation of programs like Engineering Is Elementary, expansion of Project Lead the Way, TV programming like Design Squad, and the high school-level expansion of the EPICS project. Additionally, programs like Early College High School models and dual enrollment that focus on STEM, as well as the success of STEM CTE programs, might be reviewed for impact, outcomes, and emerging positive trends in leading indicators of success.
17For additional information, see Report of the 2012 National Survey of Science and Mathematics Education (www.horizon-research.com/2012nssme/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/2012-NSSME-Full-Report1.pdf; accessed August 21, 2013). This report indicates that “According to the 2012 National Survey of Science and Math Education: only 5 percent of elementary teachers had a degree in science or science education, and 4 percent had a math or math education degree. 41 percent of middle school science teachers reported having earned degrees in science or science education, and only 35 percent of middle school mathematics teachers had degrees in mathematics or math education. The comparable figures for high school teachers were 82 percent and 73 percent for science and mathematics, respectively.” See also another report from National Center for Education Statistics at http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/ JTE/v21n2/obrien.html): “Some science and mathematics teachers without
Cordero explained that SHPE chapters engage with local colleges and high schools to encourage young people to choose engineering.18 Participating SHPE members have observed that some students at the high school level do not know what engineering is or what skills are required to pursue studies or work in engineering. By reaching out to high school students, SHPE members hope to raise awareness and help students stay engaged and join a SHPE chapter at their college or university. Karyn Trader-Leigh, chief executive officer, KTA Global Partners, LLC, noted that such efforts may also be beneficial in reaching underrepresented minorities who are concerned with social justice.
The combination of effective and inspiring school leadership and classroom teaching will significantly contribute to a larger and more diverse pool of scientists and engineers who are ready and willing to enter the industrial workforce in the future.
degrees obtain certification to teach those subjects, and this provides another measure proxy of for content knowledge. For example, data from the 2007-2008 school year indicate that 12 and 16 percent of high school science and mathematics teachers, respectively, without a college degree in their subject received state certification to teach those subjects.”
18Online internships or other creative innovations might also be explored for high school students as well as teachers, and may provide additional means of introducing students to engineering by giving them real world problems to solve.