December 06, 2013
NSPE TODAY: POLICY PERSPECTIVES
BY SARAH OGDEN
On April 13 and 14, NSPE joined 27 other engineering organizations in cosponsoring the Society of Women Engineers' "Diversity and Inclusion Fuels Innovation in STEM" Capitol Hill Day. Broadening participation in engineering is critical to America's continued competitiveness. In addition to the ideas that diversity and inclusion do fuel innovation and that the makeup of the engineering profession should more closely mirror the demographics of the nation, there is the fact that, without encouraging the growing minority population to enter the STEM pipeline, the U.S. will not have the number of STEM professionals needed to meet its technology objectives.
We have a long way to go: While underrepresented minorities (i.e., everyone except whites and Asians) comprised 28.5% of the U.S. population in 2006, they made up just 9.1% of college-educated Americans in science and engineering occupations. And though 2009 census data showed that nearly 51% of the U.S. population is made up of women, fewer than 11% of engineers are women.
A recent National Academies report, Expanding Underrepresented Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads, examines the need to increase participation by underrepresented minorities in STEM fields.
The report's policy recommendations to increase underrepresented minorities' recruitment and retention in the STEM workforce include:
In addition, the report also recommends that professional societies make recruitment and retention of underrepresented minorities an organization goal, monitor the impact of programs designed to broaden participation in STEM fields, and collaborate with other organizations to communicate the importance of broadening participation in STEM to their members, the public, and policymakers.
Meanwhile, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) has introduced a bill (H.R. 889) that aims to eliminate gender bias at the university faculty level. The bill would authorize workshops aimed at minimizing the effects of gender bias in evaluation. The bill also would develop a policy to provide extended research-grant support and interim technical staff support for caregivers, making STEM research more family-friendly.
According to NSPE's position statement "Minorities and Women in Engineering," the Society "proactively encourage[s] diversity in all areas of the engineering profession, which NSPE aggressively pursues in its own organization and seeks opportunities to promote throughout the profession." The statement further pledges that NSPE will provide minority and women students with information on opportunities and requirements to pursue engineering and that NSPE will work with professional groups representing minority and women engineers to promote mutual interests.
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