Employers Can Improve STEM Workforce Diversity

Many employers face challenges in finding employees with STEM skills, particularly as American demographics continue to change.  The current make-up of the U.S. STEM workforce is primarily more white and Asian, with a significantly lower representation of other ethnic groups and females.  As an employer, have you thought about how these changing demographics will impact the diversity of employees in your STEM jobs?  It’s important to consider the significance of the STEM issue and how your organization is planning to ensure you have the qualified STEM talent for your STEM jobs.

There are several steps employers can take to improve STEM workforce diversity.  Start with an internal self-audit:

  • First, determine the jobs in your company that are considered STEM jobs.
  • Compare your internal demographic trends in your STEM jobs to the U.S. STEM workforce.  How does your own STEM workforce compare to the STEM demographics of the nation, and how will you address the gaps?
  • What is your company currently doing to increase diversity in your STEM workforce?
  • Does your current Diversity Strategic Plan address STEM as part of diversity? Why or why not? Which aspects of your plan will you prioritize and set specific goals related to STEM?
  • Do the diversity metrics for your STEM jobs quantify and qualify success so you can adequately assess outcomes and determine where improvements can be made, in both your recruiting and retention programs?
  • Are your recruiting policies and practices aligned with your STEM diversity goals? Are these efforts coordinated across the organization?
  • Have you researched STEM programs to guide your diversity recruitment outreach efforts?
  • Have you determined how to build STEM partner capacity with educational institutions, community organizations, and STEM-specific workforce programs to increase the organization’s effectiveness in reaching its STEM recruitment and retention goals?  Are you leveraging local resources in your outreach efforts?
  • Does your organization offer internships for your STEM jobs?  What links are you establishing from your outreach programs to STEM internships, or from scholarship programs to employment outcomes?
  • Are you the employer of choice among STEM qualified job seekers and STEM professionals?  Why or why not?
  • Are your pay rates competitive for attracting and retaining STEM talent?
  • Is the hiring process and hiring cycle time competitive, or is it slow and cumbersome, turning off STEM job seekers?
  • Have you established specific goals for improving the representation of females and minorities in your STEM applicant pools?

It’s a good idea to begin to take action in incremental steps:  short-term (1-12 months), mid-term (1-3 years), and long-term (4+ years).  Executive and senior leaders engaged in guiding the program can result in long-lasting changes and sustained efforts that will be needed to reach your STEM diversity goals.  Depending on the results of your self-audit, you might wish to establish a focused STEM Diversity or Advisory Council to help raise awareness and enhance diversity and inclusion in your STEM jobs.  Some of the members should have expertise in recruitment, diversity management, and STEM training.  Engaging underrepresented groups in the effort is also highly recommended.

There is no doubt that the business case for including STEM as part of  your diversity planning efforts is a valuable component in improving your STEM pipeline and overall workforce diversity.

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Jolene Jeffries

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