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Diversity in STEMS - Who really cares?

The massive walkout by employees at various Google locations highlights ongoing problems in tech. “It’s important for us to fight for these issues, at work and everywhere,” one male employee said. “I’m terrified to be standing here, but I really wanted to say something,” said one woman who said she was sexually harassed at Google in 2013. “My experience reporting it was almost as bad as what I went through.” (

Among the stated complaints of Google protesters is pay disparities. An article in the May 27, 2014 Atlantic magazine by Janell Ross declares:

“A new study finds that 12.4 percent of black college graduates were unemployed. For all college graduates, the unemployment rate stood at just 5.6 percent.”

How can we justify encouraging our students to take on thousands of dollars of student debt if this is the reality? Those who have potential don’t feel accepted unless they pursue sports or entertainment since they feel these are the only professions they are “allowed” to be in by the society at large. The motivation to pursue college is greatly diminished for them. Role models in STEMS are seen by them as the exceptions to the rule.

Our students face tremendous challenges just to get to college. This cost benefit analysis showing that they are unlikely to get a profitable return on their academic investment is just as real.

A report entitled “KC Tech Specs” published by KC Tech council and VML shows that there are now approximately 3,000 tech jobs unfulfilled in Kansas City. Contributing factors include a lower income for tech jobs in Kansas City. The report states: “our local salaries lag behind the national average.” Women make up 19% of the KC tech workforce. Out of 50,000 potential local tech worker candidates, there are less than five Asian and African-American men. There are less than five Hispanic and Asian women. 

Aside from this discussion is to recognize the need for diversity in the first place. According to a McKinsey study, American public companies with a diverse executive board have a 95% higher return on equity than those with non-diverse boards. Diversity can foster a more creative and innovative workforce. Workforce diversity can bring thinking outside of the box that is more native to those not from the more homogeneous echo chambers. Demographics are changing productivity and competitive advantages in the global marketplace. We must adapt and be more inclusive to remain competitive. Disruptive innovations in STEMS fields demands that we resource all available talent and expertise. 

- Imani Malaika-Mehta

  • November 4, 2018

Imani Malaika-MehtaComment