Solution to Lack of Diversity in STEM Fields? It's Elementary

By Genevieve Douglas

Some employers thing that creating a diverse talent pipeline for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics should begin as early as elementary school.

When researchers examine the kindergarten to eighth grade time period, gaps in learning for science and math are already apparent, Paul Morgan, professor of education studies at Penn State's College of Education, told Bloomberg BNA on July 25. "Knowledge gaps about science begin early and they tend to maintain across time," leaving students who might have otherwise have an aptitude for STEM learning behind throughout their schooling," he said.

This is particularily true for girls and for children from diverse racial and socioeconomic backgrounds, Morgan said. "It's a well-validated concern and problem that there's a lack of diversity in STEM fields. These jobs are predominately filled by white men, and it's also an aging workforce in the U.S.," he said. This should raise concerns about the country's abililty to be competitive internationally in technology fields, and even more so about employers potentionally missing out "on brilliant minds who come from diverse backgrounds," Morgan said.

"The jobs of the future are in STEM" because "everything you do during the day touches STEM," Marti Skold-Jordan, manager of U.S. Community Partnerships at pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, told Bloomberg BNA July 24. There needs to be an open dialogue between corporations and school systems, so that large STEM companies can communicate what skill sets are needed for the future workforce, Skold-Jordan said. "The pipeline of our employees in the future needs to have kids in school now that want to do these jobs," she said.

To contanct the editor responsible for this story: Tony Harris at tharris@bna.com