During my childhood, I don't remember anyone talking to me about the careers I could choose. In my school that was reserved for the last year of high school and by that time I was already sure about what career I was going to study.
Some governments are taking steps through legislation to guarantee equal access to minorities (be it of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc.) in work environments. However, placing all the pressure of diversification in companies, doesn’t solve the root cause of the problem:
STEM careers are not visible enough during childhood and early scholar stages for many people.
For this reason, the focus of this article is how to promote access to STEM education, aside from the regulatory counterpart and its application from an organizational point of view (which are very important too).
Promote role models:
A boy or girl that sees how a person (with whom they can identify) achieves a goal and instils the belief that they can achieve it too. The search and promotion of role models is key and a fundamental task, however, we need to ensure minorities are well represented as role models to encourage the next generation.
Perform STEM talks at schools:
We should promote STEM to children so that they can be aware about the existence and opportunities of these careers. Today there are some organizations that are working on this task; but I think that promoting these activities as part of the compulsory educational curriculum of schools, in collaboration with a few hours of corporate social responsibility by companies, can positively affect the dissemination of STEM career awareness in these sectors.
Promote guided visits to companies with a high STEM component:
Like companies in the automotive, engineering, scientific research and software companies industries. By bringing children closer to scientific and technological environments we can activate their latent curiosity.
Give minorities more prominence in TV & movies as STEM-based characters:
What you read and watch are still very strong source of influences, especially for little ones. If you don't believe me, how many of you have daughters who dream of being a Disney princess when they grow up? If there was more representation in Dr. Who, or Q - James Bond's famous inventor, more dreams could be ignited. We're getting there but there is a lot of work yet to be done.
Increase practical and experimental classes in schools:
I remember when I was a child how I loved biology, physics and chemistry experiments - we made our own products to remove rust, analyze what type of blood we had and how we could power a lightbulb with an orange. Although theory is necessary, practice is what makes children discover the beauty of science and fall in love with it.
Educate adults to avoid comments that suggest careers (whether they are STEM or not) are for a specific gender, race or social class. And guide the most vulnerable families on the importance of empowering their children, letting them know the opportunities they will have even when they come from less privileged backgrounds.
We should work to expand the workforce from as early as we can. The more diversity, the better.
With thanks - this article was written by Elena C. Mata S.