Broadening Participation Critical to Engineering Profession

 

June 2011

NSPE TODAY: POLICY PERSPECTIVES
Broadening Participation Critical to Engineering Profession

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:

  • Improving preschool and early education programs that develop reading readiness, provide early mathematics skills, and introduce concepts of creativity and discovery;
  • Improving K?12 science and mathematics education for underrepresented minorities
  • Improving the preparedness of K?12 science and mathematics teachers;
  • Improving access to all postsecondary education and technical training and increase underrepresented minorities' awareness of and motivation for STEM education and careers through improved information, counseling, and outreach;
  • Providing adequate financial support to underrepresented minorities in undergraduate and graduate STEM education; and
  • Increasing inclusion of underrepresented minorities in higher-education STEM education by transforming the nation's colleges and universities, thus increasing underrepresented minorities' college completion and success.

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.
 
To download a free copy of Expanding Underrepresented Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads, please visit
www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12984.
For NSPE's position statement "Minority and Women in Engineering," visit
www.nspe.org/IssuesandAdvocacy/TakeAction/PositionStatements/ps_min_wom_eng.html.

 

From Capitol Hill
During the SWE event, NSPE Treasurer Leanne Panduren, P.E., F.NSPE, and NSPE staff met with Reps. Joe Barton, P.E. (R-TX), David McKinley, P.E. (R-WV), and staff from the offices of Reps. Candice Miller (R-MI) and Congressman David Wu (D-OR). In addition to discussing the importance of diversity in engineering, they covered the following topics:

 

 

  • NSPE supports the Engineering Education for Innovation Act, which would establish a grant program to help states improve K?12 engineering education programs, increase student interest and achievement in STEM subjects, increase the number of teachers qualified to teach engineering, and broaden the diversity of students participating in engineering. The legislation is expected to be introduced soon.
  • NSPE supports the Good Samaritan Protection for Construction, Architectural, and Engineering Volunteers Act (H.R. 1145), which would provide qualified immunity to construction, architectural, and engineering entities volunteering in a declared emergency.
  • NSPE continues to believe that the U.S. should lead the world in the advancement and use of nuclear power—but the inherent risk to public health and safety warrants an additional degree of protection for the public. Requiring that licensed professional engineers oversee the engineering design, operations, or maintenance of nuclear energy facilities will help the nuclear energy industry preserve its strong safety record while minimizing the potential for disaster.