According to U.S. Census Bureau estimates, under-represented minority women make up nearly 15 percent of the nation’s populace 15-24 years of age – a substantial proportion of the pre-college and college-going population. Yet, the National Science Foundation reports under-represented minority women earned just 10 percent of all STEM baccalaureate degrees granted in 2006. These numbers are more dire in select STEM fields. Minority women earned less than 3.8 percent of the nation’s bachelor’s degrees in engineering and physics.
Women of color represent great potential for expanding and diversifying the STEM pipeline, calling for the importance of higher education to secure a strong pathway for this group into scientific careers. A number of colleges and universities are doing an excellent job at supporting women through the undergraduate portion of the pipeline and onto baccalaureate completion. These institutions represent the top 10 producers of STEM bachelor’s degrees granted respectively to Black, Hispanic and Native American women, according to 2008 National Center for Education Statistics data.
Top 10 B.S. Producers of Black Women in STEM
Top 10 B.S. Producers of Hispanic Women in STEM
Top 10 B.S. Producers of Native American Women in STEM
Perhaps not surprising to many readers, minority-serving institutions (MSIs) are well represented. Historically Black colleges and universities are already known as top producers of Black women in STEM, including those who pursue and obtain graduate and professional degrees in scientific fields. The same is true of Hispanic-serving institutions. This summation further proves that MSIs continue to shoulder the STEM education of minority students despite this era of increased college access for all groups.
If we are to truly expand the STEM pipeline – an effort that requires the postsecondary success of minority women – we cannot afford to place the burden of strengthening scientific advancement on MSIs alone. As such, leaders at traditionally White institutions are wise to reach out to MSIs when crafting academic and social services around increasing persistence in STEM majors by creating lasting partnerships with them and others graduating minority women in these fields.
Dr. Lorelle L. Espinosa is the director of policy and strategic initiatives at the Institute for Higher Education Policy, a Washington, D.C.-based independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing access and success in postsecondary education around the world.
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