While strides have been made for women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in seeking careers in science and engineering, as a recent report from the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics shows, the pandemic has exacerbated problems that disadvantage these groups. In what was the closing event for “Understanding Diversity in STEM: WMPD Day” on May 12, a panel of social and behavioral scientists discussed how we can build a more diverse and dynamic workforce in science, technology, engineering and mathematics by addressing issues like:
• What does privilege look like within STEM? How can understanding this in turn support those who don’t share the same privileges?
• How has learning become “racialized” and how does this hurt students and scholars of color?
• How can institutions build “cultures of growth” to motivate and engage underrepresented students and faculty?
• And what does all of this mean in a post-pandemic world?
Panelists included sociologist Erin Cech; psychologist Mary Murphy, and education researcher Na’ilah Suad Nasir. Social psychologist Claude Steele will moderate the event. (Full bios appear below.)
This 90-minute event was sponsored by the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University and SAGE Publishing.
Erin Cech is an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and the Department of Mechanical Engineering (by courtesy) at the University of Michigan. Before coming to UM, she was a postdoctoral fellow at the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University and was on faculty at Rice University. Cech’s research examines cultural mechanisms of inequality reproduction–especially through seemingly innocuous cultural beliefs and practices. Her work on inequality in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) professions focuses on the recruitment and retention of women, people of color, and LGBTQ-identifying persons in STEM degree programs and STEM jobs. Her research has appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Science Advances, the American Journal of Sociology, and the American Sociological Review. Her research has been covered by The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, Time, Harvard Business Review, and the news sections of Science and Nature. In 2020, she was named one of Business Equality Magazine’s “40 LGBTQ+ Leaders Under 40.”
Mary Murphy is the Herman B. Wells Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Indiana University. In the area of education, her research illuminates the situational cues—like faculty and institutional mindset—that influence students’ academic motivation and achievement with an emphasis on understanding when those processes are similar and different for structurally advantaged and disadvantaged students. She develops, implements, and evaluates social psychological interventions that reduce identity threat and spur students’ motivation, persistence, and performance. Murphy is a co-founder of the College Transition Collaborative, a research-practice partnership aimed to increase student success through social psychological interventions. In the realm of organizations and tech, her research examines barriers and solutions for increasing gender and racial diversity in STEM fields. In particular, she examines the role of organizational mindset in companies’ organizational culture, employee engagement and performance, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. In 2019, she was awarded the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers —the highest honor bestowed on early career scientists by the United States government. She is the recipient of over $8 million in federal and foundation grants including a recent $2.2 million NSF CAREER award for her research on strategies to improve diversity in STEM.
Na’ilah Suad Nasir is the sixth president of the Spencer Foundation, which funds education research nationally. She has held a faculty appointment in education and African American studies at the University of California, Berkeley where she also served as the chair of African American studies, then later as the vice chancellor for equity and inclusion. Nasir’s research examines the racialized and cultural nature of learning and schooling, with a particular focus on the experiences of African American students in schools and communities. She recently co-edited The Handbook of the Cultural Foundations of Learning (Routledge) and We Dare Say Love: Supporting Achievement in the Educational Life of Black Boys. She is also the author of Racialized Identities: Race and achievement for African-American youth, published by the Stanford University Press in 2012. She chairs the board of the National Equity Project, and serves as an advisory board member for the Public Policy Institute of California, and the Division of Letters and Science at the University of California, Berkeley. She is also the president of the American Educational Research Association.
Claude M. Steele is an emeritus professor of psychology at Stanford University, a former CASBS fellow, and previous CASBS director. He is best known for his work on stereotype threat and its application to minority student academic performance. His earlier work dealt with research on the self (e.g., self-image, self-affirmation) as well as the role of self-regulation in addictive behaviors. In 2010, he released his book, Whistling Vivaldi and Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us, summarizing years of research on stereotype threat and the underperformance of minority students in higher education. He currently serves as the chair of the Russell Sage Foundation Board of Directors, and serves on the boards of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and of Scripps College. Steele is a fellow for both the American Institutes for Research and the American Academy of Political and Social Science. He has served in several major academic leadership positions as the executive vice chancellor and provost at UC Berkeley, the I. James Quillen Dean for the School of Education at Stanford University, and as the 21st provost of Columbia University. Past roles also include serving as the president of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, as the president of the Western Psychological Association, and as a member of the Board of Directors of the American Psychological Society.