Recruiters Reveal Solutions for Greater STEM Diversity

February 6, 2013

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Although minorities account for most of the nation’s population growth, employers hiring for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) occupations have found that there is a diversity shortage among position candidates. The solution to effective diversity recruiting requires a long-term multifaceted approach, according to a recent study.

Recent immigration peaks and high birth rates among minorities are transforming the country into a “majority minority nation.” According to a recent Pew Research Social & Demographic Trends report, minority groups are growing at a rapid pace: by 2050, the Hispanic population is projected to be as high as 29 percent of total U.S. population, while the black population is projected to reach 13 percent. Asians will reach 9 percent. Non-Hispanic whites, who make up 63 percent of the population, will decrease to represent half (or less) of the country by that year.

Despite this, there is a minority gap in STEM occupations, and that gap continues to widen. A new report based on a comprehensive survey by employment source Monster and Harris Interactive, titled Diversity Recruiting in STEM Occupations, underscores this issue, citing that non-Hispanic whites make up approximately 73 percent of the workforce today and African-Americans and Hispanics combine for only 7 percent of the STEM workforce. There’s an even wider gap among minority women, with less than 2 percent of blacks or Hispanics in STEM occupations. The joint survey garnered feedback from executives with “direct responsibility for diversity in recruiting and hiring employees.”

Most recruiters surveyed agreed that diversity benefits organizations, with 62 percent indicating that diversity benefits organizations “very much,” compared with 30 percent who indicated the diverse candidates have “somewhat” of an impact.

While the recruiters surveyed noted that education programs that encourage STEM professions can help reverse the diversity shortage, enrollment in STEM majors is lagging behind that in other fields of study, despite higher pay in STEM fields, as IMT Career Journal previously reported. “Almost 94 percent of students who show potential for STEM careers in the ninth grade choose non-STEM occupational fields by the time they graduate college,” the Monster/Harris Interactive report noted.

Minorities who opt to continue their STEM education as far as graduate school face challenges. A report titled The Impact of Affirmative Action Bans in Graduate Education, published by The Civil Rights Project, emphasizes how such a ban impacts enrollment rates and contributes to the decline in the proportion of “graduate students of color” who would go on to high-skilled STEM occupations.

The report's author, Lilian Garces, explains how banning affirmative action would discourage minority groups from considering a STEM degree in higher education. “… In science-related fields, where students of color are already severely underrepresented, a drop of one or two students of color can have negative long-term consequences on the decision of other students of color to apply or enroll in a specific graduate field of study.”

Beyond education, employers cite that they are responsible for improving their approaches in recruiting diverse talent in STEM, acknowledging that diversity not only enriches the employee experience but also contributes to growth, promotes cultural awareness, and presents a “positive environment” for attracting the best talent. The recruiters also acknowledged that diversity is good for an organization’s bottom line.

The survey research participants indicated that employers should adhere to a long-term approach to boosting their diversity recruiting, recommending:

  • Employee referrals via professional networks
  • Education programs encouraging STEM professions
  • Deployment of diverse employees in community recruiting efforts
  • Outreach to special interest groups
  • Establishment of diversity resource groups in the community.

We’d like your feedback: what is the most effective way to recruit a diverse pool of STEM employees?



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