Cultural Diversity in STEM

April 2021

The United States’ inability to achieve science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce diversity goals has long been attributed to the failure of the academic “pipeline” to maintain a steady flow of underrepresented minority (URM) students (Estrada et al., 2016). These gains require a strategic effort to expand the labor force—increasing the number of well-educated and highly skilled STEM-capable professionals to maintain the pace of producing meaningful technological breakthroughs (Espinosa et al., 2019). Research suggests that the way that campuses deal with diversity can influence Students of Color’s success and persistence (Harper & Yeung, 2013; Hurtado et al., 1998b). Notably, historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have been evidenced to play a crucial role in helping to diversify STEM disciplines (Perna et al., 2009). Using the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2012/17 Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS:12/17), I used the data lab software to conduct a frequency analysis. Further, this study examines gender among students majoring in STEM at HBCUs and aims to answer the following question: How strong is the association between Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Black students pursuing STEM degrees? In this analysis, I examined the percentage of students with a focus on STEM fields as a major field of study for the following variables: race/ethnicity, gender, and Historically Black Colleges/Universities. The wealth of research on African American college students’ experiences primarily focuses on Black female students, since there are twice as many in comparison to male students. Current research is more reflective of female Black college students’ experiences than Black male students. Consequently, this analysis showcases there is a strong association among Black women but a weak association among Black men.