The Next Frontier of STEM Education: Ensuring Access For Minority Students The Next Frontier of STEM Education: Ensuring Access For Minority Students
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The Next Frontier of STEM Education: Ensuring Access For Minority Students

by Liz Dwyer

September 6, 2013

Despite the gender diversity in the students participating in Science Genius, there's no denying that both hip hop and STEM fields are pretty male-dominated. That gender disparity's felt acutely in computer science, where the "brogrammer" culture's alive and well. Women represent a mere 12 percent of computer science graduates, a steep drop from the 37 percent represented in 1984. Black women are fewer than 3 percent of those overall graduates, and Latinas and Native Americans are less than 1 percent.

Bay Area technologist Kimberly Bryant says the absence of minority women  in STEM isn't about a lack of interest in the fields. Instead, says Bryant, a "lack of access and lack of exposure to STEM topics are the likelier culprits." So in April 2011, Bryant founded Black Girls CODE, a nonprofit that's working to boost the number of black, Latina, and Native American women in STEM. Her ultimate goal is for Black Girls Code to become the "Girl Scouts of technology" and teach one million minority girls to code by 2040.

The grassroots program's doing that by providing minority girls ages 7 to 17-years-old with after school workshops and summer training in robotics, mobile app development, game, and web design, as well as much-needed mentorship from women already working in those fields. This summer, Black Girls CODE's second annual Summer of CODE held workshops in 10 cities and taught 2,000 minority girls  how to code. The demand for Black Girls CODE's programs is certainly there. There are "waiting lists for our programs in well over 30 cities across the nation," says Bryant. 

Diversity is what "drives innovation, creativity, and enhances the bottom line," says Bryant. But if students who have been historically underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and math fields continue to be nurtured and encouraged by programs like Science Genius and Black Girls CODE, America's sure to be able to meet the demands of the 21st century and beyond.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user NWABR

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The Next Frontier of STEM Education: Ensuring Access For Minority Students