Written by: Reagan Flowers, PhD
As a community focused on improving underserved students’ opportunities, we are all keenly aware of the lack of women and Black scientists. However, every time I dig in and look at the numbers, they are still overwhelming. There is simply more to be done. We’re continually taking steps forward, but turning around a situation that has been vastly inequitable for so long takes unwavering commitment over many years.
Women and Blacks in Science: The Statistics
The latest statistics from UNESCO show that only 30% of science researchers around the world are women. These statistics are simply unacceptable. Even more unacceptable is the fact that only 10% of America’s scientific professionals are Black. One-tenth that means there is a whole lot of room for Black students to make their way into science.
Why are things still this way? It isn’t straightforward, as there are many reasons. Of course, the core problem for underserved students that I often mention is a lack of resources, whether at home or in the classroom. We at C-STEM do our best to bridge this gap by offering supplemental materials and activities at the teacher, school, and student levels. However, there are also some other factors to consider in how we take action now to decrease disparities, racial and otherwise, in tomorrow’s workforce.
The Importance of Representation
Think about the science textbooks you used in school. Do you remember seeing a mix of races, genders, and backgrounds? How many Black female scientists did you discuss in class? Chances are, it was very few.
Representation of minorities and women in science has not changed enough, but we’re starting to see glimpses. The film “Hidden Figures” inspired young black female students in a way we have rarely seen and even inspired a program for female scientists.
Another fantastic example is the Black female scientist at the forefront of COVID-19 vaccine research. She is just 34 years old. Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett is a true inspiration to those who don’t see others like themselves excelling in science.
We must keep telling the stories of Black and female scientists, showing tomorrow’s professionals the possibilities. Science, like all STEM fields, relies on problem-solving. Adding new perspectives brings new ways of thinking and different solutions. The input of those who come from different backgrounds also adds different perspectives on the American experience. Read more…