Beyond Bias and Barriers

, Heyecan Veziroglu, Leave a comment

Panelists at the National Press Club’s ‘Newsmaker’ Media Briefing on October 31, 2007 focused on the under-representation of women and minorities in 15 science and engineering disciplines and in key university posts.

“B.S. degrees have fallen in engineering and science faculties,” Dr. Donna Nelson from Oklahoma University exclaimed. “Minorities are less likely to enter and remain in science and engineering when they lack mentors and role models”, Dr. Nelson added. She finds that women and minorities continue to be under-represented. What’s more, the number drops when you go to the Ph.D. attendees. Then, who’s going to shape the next generation?

Dr. Irving P. McPhail, the Executive Vice President of the National Action Council for Minorities In Engineering, Inc., said math and science education is a challenge to the greatness of the U.S. More pre-engineering courses must be taken to increase the motivation for women and minorities to pursue work at the college level, he argued. Race should not affect educational destiny.

Dr. Nelson conducted a 2007 Study funded by grants from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and the Ford Foundation. She looked at faculty positions at the top 100 departments in each discipline and compared the results to a similar study done five years earlier. She said, “If minority professors are not hired, treated fairly, and retained, minority students perceive that they will experience the same. This will not encourage them to persist in that discipline.” The 2007 study emphasized the following points:

· No Native American faculty was found in the top 100 civil engineering departments.

· Minorities comprised 7.9 % of electrical engineering Ph.D. recipients from 1996 to 2005, yet only 4.0 % of current assistant professors drawing on that hiring pool are minorities.

· Women from under-represented groups are nearly nonexistent among faculty in the physical sciences and engineering departments at research universities.

· Chemical Engineering has the highest representation of minorities in full Professorship positions—just 4.9 %.

· From 2000 to 2005, blacks increased from 10.6 % to 12.5% of computer science B.S. recipients, but black faculty increased from 0.3 % in 2002 to 0.8 % in 2007.

Dr. Richard Tapia from Rice University said project-based learning experience and American national standards are needed. He added “we fail to realize a systematic issue. It is a demand problem. Youth do not want to be a scientist.”

Heyecan Veziroglu is an intern at the American Journalism Center, a training program run by Accuracy in Media and Accuracy in Academia.