The lack of representation in the STEM workforce has left a significant portion of youth wondering how this career path looks like for them. With women constituting only 28% of the science and engineering workforce, they still struggle to make their way into this industry even with the same qualifications as their male counterparts.
Meanwhile, Black, Latinxs, and other women racially underrepresented in STEM make up fewer than 1 in 20 employed scientists and engineers. The National Science Foundation reports that only 5% of Black workers and 6% of Latinxs make up the science and engineering workforce.
Intending to make their contribution towards the elimination of these glass ceilings, the pharmaceutical company Glaxo SmithKline has committed to donating $10 million over the next ten years to Philadelphia education and after-school programs to help Black, Latinx, and female students.
Through a collaboration between 60 organizations, including the district, universities, and after-school programming, the money will help pay for extracurricular activities, teacher training, field trips, among others.
Glaxo SmithKline’s president of U.S. pharmaceuticals Maya Martinez-Davis expressed during a virtual press conference that the donation responded to the disparities revealed by the coronavirus pandemic and the latest protest following the killing of George Floyd.
“It is up to us to clear the path for the next generation of nurses and doctors and scientists— for the next generation of the heroes who call Philadelphia home,” Martinez-Davis said.
Since the Philadelphia School District is mostly composed of children of color, the funds will help this population catch up with the rest of the state in science knowledge. Last year’s Keystone exam results show that students in the city fall behind in STEM literacy compared to their Commonwealth peers. Some of the factors that contribute to this are the lack of resources to provide enrichment activities.
Donated to the Philadelphia STEM Equity Collective (PSEC), a local nonprofit called The Philadelphia Education Fund, will be managing the funds to make this initiative come to life.
Farah Jimenez, the President and CEO of the nonprofit, expressed that “students who are underrepresented on college campuses and in high-growth careers deserve our support to access these opportunities.”
The good news is that, on a national scale, many companies are reexamining behaviors of structural racism and discrimination within the workplace. As a result, they’ve launched initiatives to readdress the lack of representation.
According to a founding partner of Kapor Capital venture firm, who’s spent decades advocating for increased tech diversity, the problems lie in the access and support to the industry.
By investing in these kinds of educational programs early on and building a diverse pipeline from the ground up, there’s no doubt that society can get one step closer towards moving the needle on workplace diversity.