Diversity in STEM Careers, Are We Starting Too Late?

 

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I recently had the pleasure of attending a well-coordinated event designed to connect educators, youth, and the workforce. The premise of the event was simple – show 8th graders alternative career paths in addition to four-year colleges.  The event showcased a local technical school and programs geared towards STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) in manufacturing, welding, drafting, machine shops, 3D printers, etc.

The day started with a 30-minute video that showed real people working in STEM jobs.  The examples used were snowboarding, race car driving, rock music and a transport vehicle in a 3rd world country.  The individuals in the video were exactly who you are thinking of when we talk about techies.  They were mostly middle-aged and young professional white males.

Although the video tried to use contemporary examples to appeal to youth, I still think they may have missed the mark. As I was scanning the room full of students, I realized that they do not look like the people in the video.  50% were not white, and 10% were female. I noticed this throughout the day-long event.  The difference in demographics was also reflected back in the volunteers for the day, the learning videos provided in the classroom sessions, the teachers, and the student body of the technical school.

So my question became two-fold. How can we reach children without role models that reflect their demographics, and how do we increase diversity in STEM? And further, is the 8th grade too late to prepare children to embrace a career in STEM if they have not focused on Math or Science?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

You are Wearing That??

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Recently a colleague approached me to discuss office dress code and what she perceived to be violations of the dress code by interns. This got me thinking about a couple things.

One, did the organization have a written dress code? As a volunteer myself I am not a regular office member, but I am subject to all of the department policies. In the volumes of reading material I encountered during my first week, I do not remember seeing a dress code. So if there is no formal written document, it begs the question, whose dress code?

Which leads me to thought number two. While we were having the conversation, it occurred to me that the interns most likely never held a professional role or title. They may not know what workplace culture is, or they may not have a professional role model to look to for cues on what is appropriate for the workplace. These ladies were not dressed inappropriately, but perhaps inappropriately for the conservative environment for which they are working. The primary concern of the office member was that the intern’s shorts were too short.

So who has the responsibility to teach young people about workplace dress and culture?  It is certainly not happening in the schools. At the graduate level, I watched fellow classmates give presentations in sweatpants, wrinkled t-shirts, and ripped jeans.

For me, acceptable workplace items include knee length skirts, button down blouses with sleeves, and trousers.  I do not think that sleeveless or low-cut shirts, short skirts, yoga pants, or shorts belong in the work environment.  Jeans are acceptable depending on the office – but leave your sparkle booty jeans at home.

You should feel confident in your office attire, and it should be something that is not distracting to you or your colleagues.

Does that make me old school? Perhaps! But isn’t it better to remove any distractions that could overshadow your accomplishments?

What do you think?

 

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Frederick Douglas

I read a short bio on Frederick Douglas today.  He definitely did not choose the easy path of just taking his lumps. It reminds me that my struggle is hard, but nothing like what his must have been to fight for freedom and rights for both minorities and women during that time when to do so must have been terrifying and infuriating.
I feel beat down most days by my decision to fight for the rights of the impoverished in housing, but I come from a place of privilege, unlike Douglas. Isn’t it then my responsibility to do something with that??

Unconscious Bias in the Workplace

The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question, “How can you play a role in advancing workplace equality?” is written by Dennis Yang, CEO of Udemy. There’s been plenty of talk about…

via How Unconscious Bias Is Holding Your Company Back — Fortune

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