Even with the investments made to educate and train computer and data scientists in the United States, the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are widely under-represented by Black, Latino, and indigenous populations. Black undergraduates make up 13% of the student population, but only 9% graduate with degrees in science and engineering. Meanwhile, Black workers comprise 11% of all jobs but only 9% of STEM jobs. The AI Now Institute argued that major tech companies like Facebook and Google have low representation of people of color in their workforce, especially Black Americans, who comprise only 2.5% of Google’s workforce and 4% of both Facebook and Microsoft—all of which are major companies in the AI space.
While these disparities have long-standing ties to historical and systemic inequities in education for people of color and other vulnerable populations like those from rural or poor communities, they also suggest a disconnect between the leading global marketplaces and the STEM pipeline, as well as skilled workers of color. Further, the lack of representation comes with very real consequences, resulting in the creation of biased products, including racially inaccurate facial recognition technologies and online ads that are predatory in their surveillance of vulnerable populations. How we develop a more diverse and inclusive population of STEM and tech workers is the focus of the current TechTank episode featuring Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, President of the University of Maryland-Baltimore County and former chairman of the report by the National Academies (2011) entitled “Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America’s Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads.” President Hrabowski was also by appointed President Obama to chair the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans in 2012.
On this episode, Dr. Nicol Turner Lee and President Hrabowski unpack the challenges of having a more inclusive tech workforce and discuss a pathway toward student success and professional achievement for under-represented students and professionals.