National Challenge: Increasing Minority Faculty in STEM Fields

Not sure how I missed this great article in Diverse Issues in Higher Education from a couple weeks ago regarding the diversity of faculty in Science, Technology, and Engineering, and Math (STEM). The article focuses on the results a MIT self-study showing that while one quarter of MIT’s 2013 class represents students from underrepresented minority backgrounds, less than four percent of faculty represent U.S.-born minorities. Certainly, MIT might not be the only university that lacks diversity in its faculty minority representation, but the school does receive more attention given its innovative and progressive reputation.

The small numbers of minority students and faculty in STEM careers is a national problem. According to IEEE – over 78% of workers in STEM fields are white males.

 A 2005 study also that women faculty in the top 50 research universities are underrepresented at all ranks, especially as full professors. The study also revealed that underrepresented minority women are almost non-existent in science and engineering departments at research universities. There are obviously many challenges facing women and minority students AND faculty in the science and engineering fields.

What this article demonstrates is that higher education has yet to make addressing this issue a priority. It will take a long-term commitment to reverse this on-going trend. It requires that a college’s institutional culture reflect its values by identifying and addressing potential barriers facing minorities and women in STEM fields.