Why diversity in STEM matters
Diversity. It’s a word we throw around a lot when it comes to education, work, and talent – particularly in STEM. Most of us accept diversity is a force for good. But why? How do diverse workplaces help us achieve more? Is it simply a moral obligation or could diversity be the key to unlocking the full potential of your team or organisation?
For many, diversity is an abstract concept and one they have never taken the time to fully consider. To understand exactly what increased diversity means for them as an individual or the STEM sector as a whole. We think the way we look at diversity needs to change. It’s time to peek behind the curtain and start to educate ourselves on diversity and the crucial role it plays across the industry.
We explore diversity and why it matters for STEM below.
What is Diversity?
‘Diverse’ is often used as a catch-all term for anyone who doesn’t fit the white, male, upper to middle-class model that was for hundreds of years (and perhaps even today) considered the very top of the social pile. But diversity is not simply a single individual who doesn’t fit a perceived social norm. Diversity means differences in groups. It means pulling together a collection of people who through their collective differences make a diverse and often stronger whole. These differences could be related to gender, social class, ethnicity, sexuality, education, disability or any number of cultural identities that make up a society.
STEM Is Behind on Diversity
Diversity in STEM is an issue that is often high on political and corporate agendas, but the pace of change appears much slower than in other sectors. STEM lacks representation from women, disabled people and people from minority ethnic backgrounds to name just a few. In fact, some of the statistics surrounding STEM make for sobering reading. A 2014 study for the UK Campaign for Science and Engineering found that only 8% of British engineers and 4% of engineering apprentices were women. They also found that 57% less disabled students in STEM went on to post-graduate study compared to none-disabled students. Black and minority ethnic men were 28% less likely to work in STEM than white men. These are patterns that are repeated around the globe. The National Science Foundation found that White and Asian men made up 84% of the US population currently employed in science or technology jobs back in 2015.
Diverse Groups Are More Creative
When we look to our heroes across the field of STEM we often focus on the brilliance of a single individual. Be it Stephen Hawking, Albert Einstein, or Marie Curie, we hail the great men and women of science as solo trailblazers. But the truth is that most scientific breakthroughs were not the result of a single moment of scientific genius. They were (and are) the results of teams, tirelessly processing data, offering new ideas and working together to develop the new and the extraordinary. People from varied cultural and social backgrounds and with a range of different life experiences can provide a richer melting pot of ideas to build on. Diversity is the key to true creativity.
Diversity Makes Organisations Stronger
The STEM sector is growing. As we become a more and more technologically-dependent society the need for science and technology-focused talent grows. By excluding or discouraging large swathes of the population from STEM careers we only add to an already emerging talent shortage. Diversity is not only beneficial in terms of progress and creativity, it is absolutely essential for filling future talent jobs. Organisations who promote and embrace a diverse workforce now will reap the benefits in the coming decades and move ahead of the competition.
Failing on Diversity Means Overlooking Top Talent
Diversity doesn’t start at the interview stage. It starts from the earliest moments of education and understanding. Taking someone out of the STEM talent pool by telling them it ‘isn’t a job for girls’ or failing to provide the right learning opportunities in the classroom runs the risk of excluding the brightest minds from the industry. Potential is not contained by gender, ethnic or cultural lines and failing to harness potential talent can only limit future progress. The path to diversity means giving everyone an equal opportunity to succeed.
Diversity is more than a buzz word. It is more than a box-ticking exercise. It’s more than a moral obligation. It’s an essential component of our successful STEM future. Make sure your organisation recognises and harnesses the power of diversity.
To discuss further how Kelly can support your business in recruiting diverse talent talk with our Life Sciences Business Development Director, Nick McCoy by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.