A new paper about STEM diversity shows at University of Massachusetts Amherst that when first-year female STEM students are mentored by student peers, the positive ripple effect lasts throughout their undergraduate years and into their postgraduate lives, enhancing the mentee’s subjective experience as well as objective academic outcomes.
Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst recently published a paper in Nature Communications showing that when first-year female STEM students are mentored by student peers, the positive ripple effect lasts throughout their undergraduate years and into their postgraduate lives, enhancing the mentee’s subjective experience as well as objective academic outcomes.
“In this new paper, we found that first-year mentoring helped maintain female engineering students’ confidence in their skills, which drove the mentees to success later on in their college years,” says Deborah Wu, the paper’s lead author, who completed the research as part of her graduate work at UMass Amherst, and is currently a postdoctoral researcher in psychology at Northwestern University. Female students with female mentors not only showed more confidence, they also exhibited greater motivation, successfully secured professional internships and were more likely to complete an undergraduate degree in a STEM field compared to either female students with male mentors or female students with no mentors.
STEM Diversity in 2023
The lack of diversity in STEM fields has been a long-standing issue, and one that has been difficult to address. However, recent research has shed light on a possible solution to this problem: early exposure.
STEM fields, which include science, technology, engineering, and math, have traditionally been dominated by men and white people and lack STEM diversity. This has been attributed to a number of factors, including societal expectations, biases in the education system, and lack of role models. However, recent research has shown that one of the biggest factors in this lack of diversity is a lack of early exposure to STEM.
Studies have shown that children who are exposed to STEM at an early age are more likely to pursue careers in these fields later in life. This exposure can take many forms, including hands-on activities, mentorship programs, and summer camps. By giving children these opportunities, we can help break down the barriers that have traditionally kept certain groups out of STEM fields and limiting STEM diversity.
One example of a successful program is the Girls Who Code program, which was founded in 2012 to address the gender gap in computer science. The program offers free summer camps and after-school clubs for girls in grades 3-12, providing them with the opportunity to learn coding skills and engage with female role models in the tech industry. Since its founding, Girls Who Code has reached over 185,000 girls in all 50 states and has increased STEM diversity.
Another example is the STEM Scholars program at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). This program targets underrepresented high school students, providing them with a summer program that includes coursework, mentorship, and hands-on research experiences. The program has been highly successful in increasing the number of underrepresented students who go on to pursue STEM degrees at UCLA.
While programs like Girls Who Code and STEM Scholars are making a difference, there is still much work to be done to increase diversity in STEM fields. It is important to continue to develop and expand programs that provide early exposure to STEM for all children, regardless of their gender, race, or socioeconomic status.
In addition to early exposure, other factors that can contribute to increased STEM diversity in STEM include the availability of mentors and role models, supportive workplace cultures, and efforts to address biases in hiring and promotion. By addressing these factors, we can create a more diverse and inclusive STEM workforce that reflects the rich diversity of our society.
In conclusion, the secret to STEM diversity lies in early exposure. By providing children with opportunities to engage with STEM at an early age, we can help break down the barriers that have traditionally kept certain groups out of these fields. While there is still much work to be done, programs like Girls Who Code and STEM Scholars are making a difference, and we must continue to develop and expand these programs to create a more diverse and inclusive STEM workforce.