Social Factors Keep Minorities Out of Science and Engineering
April 13, 2006 -- While the same percentages of black and white college-bound seniors express interest in scientific and engineering careers, a larger percentage of white males continue along that path, according to the College Board. A program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, concludes that social factors including academic and cultural isolation, low expectations, and discrimination are keeping minorities and women from continuing in these fields.
To address these factors, the Meyerhoff Scholars Program was developed to offer a four-year scholarship along with social and mentoring programs to students who have an interest in pursuing doctoral study in the sciences or engineering, particularly those who are interested in the advancement of minorities in these fields. Students in the Meyerhoff program were twice as likely to earn a science or engineering bachelor’s degree and 5.3 times more likely to enroll in post-college graduate study than students who decline the program. They were also twice as likely to earn a science or engineering bachelor’s degree as non-Meyerhoff students with similar interests and preparation. The program noticed an increase in minority participation in science and engineering throughout the university, however.
Several National Research Council reports deal with minorities in science and engineering. Minorities in the Chemical Workforce: Diversity Models That Work examines programs to increase diversity in undergraduate and graduate chemistry programs. Enhancing the Community College Pathway to Engineering Careers discusses opportunities for community colleges to increase diversity in the engineering workforce.
Advancing the Nation's Health Needs: NIH Research Training Programs recommends that supplements to existing training grants be made available for the purpose of developing outreach programs for undergraduates and high school students from underrepresented minorities and for the secondary school teachers serving them. An Assessment of NIH Minority Research and Training Programs assesses the National Institutes of Health's programs for increasing the participation of underrepresented minorities in biomedical science. In the Nation's Compelling Interest: Ensuring Diversity in the Health Care Workforce suggests changes in admissions processes and asks for increased funding for programs designed to foster diversity, among other recommendations.