Symposium Addresses Equity Issue in STEM Education

Education 05.30,14

STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education can provide historically underrepresented populations with proven pathways for obtaining good jobs and a higher standard of living, but these populations are not currently reaping its benefits. The Leadership Conference Education Fund and Educational Testing Service (ETS) on Tuesday co-sponsored a symposium, titled “Advancing Equity through More and Better STEM Learning,” to examine the best ways to ensure that STEM learning is inclusive and equally accessible to everyone, including communities of color, high-poverty communities, women and girls, and people with disabilities.

“We have an ongoing, systematic, nationwide crisis in education,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference, in his introduction to the event. “It’s time for the nation to examine where and how we are losing so many children along the K-16 STEM pipeline and to accelerate progress in closing both the opportunity and achievement gaps that persist.”

The symposium featured three panels – to address disparities in STEM education, how to widen the STEM pipeline, and some promising STEM practices – in addition to keynotes from Catherine Lhamon, assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, and David Johns, executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans.

Johns, in part, spoke about President Obama’s ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ initiative, launched in February to create opportunities – including educational – for boys and men of color in America.

Roberto Ramirez, Special Assistant to President Obama for Education Policy, also provided remarks at the symposium, which coincided with the White House’s annual science fair. This year’s fair placed particular emphasis on girls and women who are excelling in STEM education. As part of his “Educate to Innovate” campaign, Obama announced several upcoming initiatives, including a $35 million Department of Education competition, an expansion of STEM AmeriCorps to provide STEM learning opportunities for 18,000 low-income students this summer, and a national STEM mentoring effort, including steps by technology and media companies, non-profits, and others to connect more students to STEM.

The need for a convening on this particular topic was underscored on Wednesday when Google released its employee diversity data, showing that Black and Hispanics comprise only 2 and 3 percent of its workforce, respectively. Women comprise thirty percent of its employees.

To view a recording of all speakers and panels at the symposium – and to see the full agenda – please click here.

Coverage of the symposium:

STEM From a Civil Rights Perspective – Education Week

D.C. STEM Symposium Examines Equity Issue – Diverse: Issues in Higher Education

The Link Between STEM Training and Civil Rights – Nextgov