Our June First Friday at the Fab Lab provided some rich, thought provoking discussion, and has also inspired some productive conversation around a new collaborative project we hope to be announcing soon, as well a new collection of Equity in STEM Education Resources we’ve added to our Resource Page.
Because as Sheena Lofton-Huggins, of Pasco County Agents for Change, pointed out Friday night, ” Lack of diversity represents a lack of talent.” It has serious economic as well as social repercussions.
When we don’t have diversity in the STEM (Science, Technology, Education and Math) space we’re really losing talent, she explained, adding that inequity in the STEM fields doesn’t start at the hiring stage.
“The inequity in STEM starts with educational disparities early on in school.”
Kids have to see it to know they can be it, she said. Some students may never have seen an engineer or met an scientist. Being able to see people who look like them in positions of professionalism and leadership in science and tech fields let’s children know what’s possible.
Some things we can do to make spaces more inclusive include:
- Awareness of micro-messaging, like automatically handing a tool to a boy instead of a girl
- Encouraging discussion, self-expression and discovery
- Creating safe supportive spaces where children can wonder, experiment and explore, use tools, fail and try again.
- Parents advocating for our children to get more after school programming
- Keeping conversations open and ongoing
- Creating a growth mindset and work with parents to bring them into the fold
- Giving back in time, treasure and talent through mentoring and funding diversity programs and projects
True inclusion requires an awareness of inadvertent exclusion, and sometimes prioritizing some students over others in order to be truly and intentionally inclusive. Just because you’re not excluding someone doesn’t mean you’re being inclusive. Exposure to science and tech education, to things outside the sometimes limited community of some children, introducing them to careers and disciplines they might never have been aware of, gives them a change to dream outside the funnel they may currently be in, said Lofton-Huggins.
Support organizations in our area that work on creating equity in spaces as it relates to diversity in general, including STEM education, include:
- Bullard Family Foundation
- Junior League of Tampa
- Anytown – Community Tampa Bay
- National Coalition of 100 Black Women – Tampa Bay Chapter
Striving for the dialog shouldn’t end now, Lofton-Huggins said. Three, six, nine, twelve months down the road, she said, we want to be able to continue having these conversations.
We completely agree, and to that end have created a comprehensive STEM Equity Resource guide on our Resource page and have started a conversation with PCAC on a new project we think will provide some useful resources and tools to improve STEM equity in Tampa Bay. We also have some great summer programs announced soon.
Thanks to those who joined in and look for more ways to stay engaged, and help bridge the gap on STEM Equity together.