American Universities Hinder Diversity Among STEM Students

Are traditional academic approaches hindering organizations from bolstering diversity According to new research, universities aren’t doing enough to diversify the next generation of talent from STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) departments. In fact, 37 percent of STEM department chairs gave their institution a grade of “C” or below when it came to successfully recruiting and retaining women, Black, Latino and American Indian students.


The data is represented in the Bayer Corporation’s Bayer Facts of Science Education XV survey, which polled 413 STEM department chairs at the top 200 U.S.-based research universities, as well as colleges known for successfully graduating Black, Latino and American Indian STEM students.

Discouraging Courses

Nearly half (46 percent) of STEM department chairs believe that traditional academic approachesnamely the “weeding out” of students via demanding introductory coursesare harmful to women, Black, Latino and American Indian students. More than half (59 percent) reported that this discouragement occurs “frequently” or “occasionally.” Eighty-three percent said that faculty members do counsel some students away from STEM degrees, and 58 percent noted it as a common practice.

Education, Role Models & Stereotypes

STEM department chairs rate the most significant barriers for students from traditionally underrepresented groups as a lack of educational preparation (32 percent) and a lack of role models (17 percent). Women students are challenged by a lack of role models (13 percent) and stereotypes (13 percent). For more onhow stereotypes threaten students from succeeding at higher-education institutions,read social psychologist Dr. Claude Steele’s commentsat a DiversityInc event.

Educational preparation is less of an issue for women STEM students (12 percent). The majority of department chairs (82 percent) perceive that women students enter college with a quality education, compared with majority students (74 percent) and Black, Latino and American Indian students (34 percent). Chairs also believe that women are 93 percent “as likely” or “more likely” to graduate compared with majority students. Only 61 percent anticipate the same for Black, Latino and American Indian students.

Initiating Change

According to Greg Babe, president and CEO of Bayer Corporation, the most important finding of the study was respondents’ lack of willingness to alter current teaching practices. While 84 percent of STEM department chairs recognized that recruiting and retaining women, Black, Latino and American Indian students is a prominent challenge and 46 percent perceive “weeding out” as harmful to students, more than half (57 percent) felt no need to change. And of those citing a need for change, the majority (71 percent) calls for an increase in academic support and tutoring.

“No institution should be immune to making changes where change is needed,” says Babe, who notes that “college STEM departments are important gatekeepers to STEM careersindeed one of the most important links in the chain.”

Dr. Mae C. Jemison, the first Black woman astronaut, medical doctor, chemical engineer and Bayer’s Making Science Make Sense spokesperson, says that it’s important to note that STEM dropout rates for all undergraduate students are at 40 to 60 percent. For more on how organizations can help improve dropout rates and bolster future talent pipelines, read “Rutgers Future Scholars Enhances Talent Pipelines With Corporate-Student Outreach.”

“This survey is about the perception about how the department chairs rate themselves, and there’s a reality behind that as well,” Jemison says. “The vast majority consider that women come to college very ready to succeed at STEM and graduate at much larger percentages. But when [students from traditionally underrepresented groups] and [majority students] do come prepared, they still graduate in lower numbers.”

Jemison cites industry research that found that 40 percent of women, Blacks, Latinos and American Indians who graduated with STEM degrees report that they were actively discouraged. “We are still losing other folks,” she says, noting how “weeding out” results in a loss of interest and self-confidence among STEM undergraduates.

To improve diversity in STEM departments, Jemison says that institutions need to provide expectation, exposure and experience. “Let students know that they should be there and that they are wanted,” she advises.

Read about the DiversityInc Foundation’s mission to fund scholarships for students who are disadvantaged financially.

Referenced Articles:

How to Get More Blacks and Latinos in Accounting

The STEM Pipeline for Women

Rutgers Students Excel in Sciences With ODASIS

The Stereotype Threat: Dr. Claude Steele Mesmerizes Audience

AT&T & Rutgers on Solving the Dropout Crisis

Rutgers Future Scholars Enhances Talent Pipelines With Corporate-Student Outreach

Latest News

Toyota Research Institute and Stanford University’s Dynamic Design Lab Study How to Improve Automotive Safety

Originally published on pressroom.toyota.com. Inspired by the Skills of Professional Drift Drivers, Research Seeks to Combine the Technology of Vehicle Automation with Artificial Intelligence Algorithms What if every driver who ran into trouble had the instinctive reflexes of a professional race car driver and the calculated foresight of a supercomputer…

Tribal elder

Loss of Tribal Elders Due to COVID-19 Decimating Indigenous Populations; Colorado Revamps Common-Law Marriage Requirements, Making Them More Friendly for LGBTQ Couples; and More

Loss of tribal elders due to COVID-19 decimating Indigenous populations. The Muscogee, Navajo, Blackfeet Nation, White Mountain Apache and Choctaw tribes are among the many communities of Indigenous people suffering irreparable losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, New York Times reporter Jack Healy has reported. Already impacted by infection rates…

Justice for George Floyd

Officer Who Pressed Knee Into George Floyd’s Neck to Stand Trial Alone; Judge Halts Federal Execution of Lisa Montgomery, Only Woman on Death Row

Officer who pressed knee into George Floyd’s neck to stand trial alone in March. Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin — the man who can be seen on video pressing his knee into George Floyd’s neck for an excruciating 8 minutes and 46 seconds — will now stand trial alone,…

BASF Starts Global Registration for New and Environmentally Friendly Insecticide Active Ingredient

Originally published on BASF.com. BASF ranked No. 14 on The 2020 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list. Regulatory dossiers for Axalion™insecticide submitted in Australia and Korea Active ingredient with novel mode of action and high compatibility with beneficial insects, including pollinators First sales for Axalion-based products expected by 2023…

Trump cancelled for insurrection attempt

Trump Isn’t Just Fired After Attempted Insurrection — He’s Cancelled; Fears Mount Over Multiple Potential D.C. Superspreader Events; and More

Trump isn’t just fired after attempted insurrection — he’s canceled. The legal and ego-shattering ramifications of inciting a riot and attempting to stage a coup on the Capitol Building continue to pile up for lame duck President Donald Trump. Consider that in less than a week following his criminal actions,…

KPMG: Race and Accountability in the Boardroom

Originally published on KPMG.us by Stephen L. Brown Senior Advisor, Board Leadership Center. KPMG ranked No. 12 on The 2020 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list. Protests and social unrest following the death of George Floyd and others, along with the detrimental effects of COVID-19 and the economic downturn…

Southern Company Becomes the First Large Cap Utility in the U.S. to Publish a Sustainable Financing Framework

Allows Southern Company and its subsidiaries to issue Sustainable Financing Instruments contributing to a sustainable economy Originally published on southerncompany.com. Southern Company has published a Sustainable Financing Framework (“Framework”), making it the first large cap utility holding company in the United States to do so. The Framework, published on January 4, 2021, allows…