by Danielle Rose, Director of Programs for the Level Playing Field Institute
STEM fields are some of the most exciting areas to work in today. Not only are STEM careers at the cutting edge of discovery and innovation, they are also among the most sought after jobs. According to the 2015 US News & World Report rankings, 13 of the top 15 best jobs are STEM related. These jobs are not only good for those who hold them but for the nation as a whole.
Unfortunately, many STEM careers are placed out of reach for people from underrepresented communities of color. This is evidenced by the employment data recently released by many major tech companies. This data indicates that while African Americans and Latinos make up make up 30 percent of the US population, they represent less than 5 percent of the tech workforce.
This gap in diversity is the product of an access and leaky pipeline problem to STEM. By pipeline problem we mean that students from underrepresented communities lack access to the resources, classroom instruction and opportunities that are essential to successfully begin a path to a STEM career. The pipeline becomes leaky when biases, both overt and covert, drive these students to abandon their dream of a future in STEM.
At the Level Playing Field Institute (LPFI), we seek to remedy these pipeline issues by living up to our mission by eliminating the barriers faced by underrepresented people of color in STEM and fostering their untapped talent for the advancement of our nation.
We do this through our signature program, the Summer Math and Science Honors Academy, better known as SMASH. SMASH is a free, STEM-intensive, college preparatory program for low-income underrepresented high students of color. Operated on the campuses of Stanford, UC Berkeley and UCLA, SMASH boasts a rigorous 5-week, 3-year summer residential STEM enrichment program. SMASH scholars are provided access to rigorous coursework, developmental workshops,mentors, role models, and support networks. Our programs aren’t just inspirational; they are transformational.
The results of SMASH speak for themselves:
- 100% of SMASH alumni graduate from high school;
- 75% complete an AP STEM course;
- 98% have gone to college or university and nearly half of those to a top-50 school; and
- 74% declare a STEM major, compared to 23% of all college freshman
The barriers that divert and/or prevent talented students from careers in STEM are entrenched, but not immovable. With access to resources, rigorous training and role models, these currently underrepresented students can drive the STEM innovation needed to continue powering our nation’s economy.
You can help LPFI break down the barriers for these students with an investment of your time and/or resources. Learn how you can get involved at LPFI.org.