America’s science and engineering sectors have made strides toward building a more diverse labor force, but progress remains to be made, the National Science Board’s annual “Science and Engineering Indicators” report found.
“There has been some general movement toward more diversity of participation in S&E [science and engineering] occupations,” the report, released Thursday, said. It also noted, however, that “despite this increase, participation varies substantially across groups.”
Asians, for example, made up 19 percent of scientists and engineers in the United States in 2010 – far higher than their proportion in the general population, which was 5 percent.
By contrast, African Americans, Hispanics, American Indians and Alaska Natives, “historically underrepresented racial and ethnic groups,” the report described, accounted for 10 percent of the country’s workers in science and engineering in 2010 – up slightly from 7 percent in 1993, but still a far smaller proportion than their share of the general population, which was 26 percent.
Women were also underrepresented in the science and engineering workforce. While they represent half of all college-educated workers in the United States, they made up just 28 percent of science and engineering workers in 2010 – an increase from 21 percent in 1993.
Science and engineering industry leaders have called on both businesses and educators to help make the sectors more diverse. At a “STEM Saves Lives” conference hosted by U.S. News and the pharmaceutical lobby last month, speakers urged teachers and parents, in particular, to help break down expectations of what scientists and engineers should look like.
“‘What is a scientist to you? What does that mean’” said Carmela Mascio, a senior research associate at the company Cubist. “Make it real to students. Make it possible.”