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Boosting STEM

Several initiatives address diversity and the future needs of in-demand fields
Story Series
Bridgewater Magazine

STEM sells. These days more than ever.

Workers are in great demand in the various fields that fall under the rubric of science, technology, engineering and math.

During the pandemic, scientists of all stripes were celebrated for their work and breakthroughs. While these workers helped millions survive and ultimately brought an end to the pandemic, science itself has been on trial in the debates over everything from climate change to the safety and efficacy of vaccines.

The pandemic provided a triumphant moment for science, but the flip side was that it exacerbated an existing manpower problem in the sciences. As the employment firm Randstad puts it, “When it comes to hiring and retention in 2022, STEM employers will once again have their work cut out for them. The shortage of qualified candidates that existed before the pandemic still rages on, worsened, even, by 2021’s record-high employee quit rates.”

In 2019, there were nearly 10.8 million workers in STEM occupations, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates. An estimated 3.5 million jobs in STEM fields will need to be filled by 2025, according to some estimates.

In addition, a lack of diversity in STEM is well-documented. While women make up half of this country’s workforce, 73 percent of all STEM workers are men, and 27 percent women, according to the Census Bureau. That latter number has increased in recent years, but the diversity gap remains.

As for people of color, women in particular, the disparity continues, with no perceived relief in sight. The Pew Research Center reports that in 2018, Black students earned only 7 percent of STEM degrees awarded in the United States.

Eight in 10 Americans say it is at least somewhat important to have racial and ethnic diversity in today’s workplaces, including around half who categorize this as “extremely” (26 percent) or “very” important (27 percent), according to Pew.

The Bartlett College of Science and Mathematics at BSU has, through a number of initiatives, been doing its part in addressing issues of diversity and shortages in STEM employment. Four such programs are detailed in the following pages.

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