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INCLUDING ALL VOICES IN STEM

If I were to ask you to close your eyes and visualize a scientist, what would you see? Most would probably describe someone who looks like Albert Einstein or Isaac Newton. I could then ask you to Google images of “famous scientists,” and similar images would appear in the search results. You would have to scroll down the page to see a woman, and even further down to see a person of color.

When I watched the movie Hidden Figures, a true story of the black women who worked for NASA as mathematicians in the 1960s, I felt empowered. For me, this story shed a new light on history and communicated a powerful message about the importance of highlighting and celebrating diverse voices and perspectives. The movie also erased the negative stereotype that black women do not excel in math and science. All across the country, young people watched the movie and saw themselves. Hidden Figures brought an excitement and huge buzz around STEM.

Science and engineering sectors have made some strides in diversifying the workforce, but overall, people of color, and specifically women of color, are still underrepresented in STEM fields. Today, I challenge you to be intentional about engaging underrepresented groups in STEM in your schools and communities, and then to build platforms and opportunities to spotlight their accomplishments and amplify their voices. Not sure where to start? Check out organizations like Black Girls Code (www.blackgirlscode.com), Girls Who Code (girlswhocode.com), or GirlStart (girlstart.org). Through our collective efforts, more students will be exposed to the possibilities of STEM.

Patricia J. Brown (@msEdtechie) is a technology specialist for Ladue (MO) School District.

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