Written by Brian Denton and Elena Gerstmann
The STEM workforce (science, technology, engineering and math) is growing rapidly in the U.S. But many groups, including Black and Hispanic workers, are underrepresented. This is particularly true in engineering, where women too are often underrepresented.
While opportunities for careers continue to grow, engineering programs struggle to attract these underrepresented groups. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects significant increases in engineering jobs in the decades ahead, but the path to greater diversity is unclear.
Drawing from the context of infectious diseases as a timely example, experts reference a critical ratio at which herd immunity takes over and suppresses the transmission of the disease through networks of people. Is the underrepresentation of minority groups in engineering akin to a disease? Are their signals that spread like a contagion throughout society, creating a belief that engineering is only for certain groups of people? Is there a critical ratio (or a critical mass) at which this problem could be solved?