Dr. Knatokie Ford – Founder and CEO of Fly Sci Enterprise
How many of you loved math as a kid? No? Okay. Now, how many of you were maybe in the other bucket, and you probably didn’t like math as much, and you maybe felt like, “Hey, maybe I’m not a ‘math person.'”
Unfortunately, we have a culture that makes it acceptable to opt out of developing math skills, but when it comes to literacy, it’s not okay to say, “Hey, reading just wasn’t my thing.” This is a major problem, because 80% of the fastest growing jobs require math or science skills. And of the five million unfilled jobs in this country today, more than half a million are in Information Technology, or IT, which is more than any other occupation. We have a mismatch between the supply and this growing demand for people with skills in science, technology, engineering, and math.
In fact, a 2012 report by President Obama’s Science and Technology Advisory Council said that we need to produce one million additional STEM college graduates by the year 2022. That’s one million on top of the projected three million.
So, why does STEM have this worker shortage? I just gave it away. It’s actually because STEM has a major diversity issue. Women make up roughly half of this country, but are only 29% of STEM workers. When it comes to race and ethnicity, African-Americans and Hispanics comprised around 26% of the US population in 2013, but were only about, or barely 11% of the science and engineering workforce. This diversity challenge is not just a matter of us needing more workers, we’re actually missing out on ideas.
Research indicates that teams that have diverse perspectives are more creative and more innovative, especially when it comes to solving complex problems. So, STEM’s diversity challenge is a complex one, and there are a number of factors that contribute to this. I want to share a few of them with you in the context of my own experience as a woman in STEM. Here I am… I knew you guys were going to laugh, it’s okay! I was female Steve Urkel, I get it.