Exploring the Trajectory of Underrepresented Groups in STEM

Georgia Tech hosts “Underrepresented Populations in STEM Careers: Why Is Progress So Slow?” on Tuesday, Jan. 28, at 2 p.m. in room 236 of the Global Learning Center.
Panelists (L-R): Lien Diaz, Georgia Tech; Sonia Garcia, Texas A&M University; Clara Piloto, MIT; and Yakut Gazi, Georgia Tech.

Panelists (L-R): Lien Diaz, Georgia Tech; Sonia Garcia, Texas A&M University; Clara Piloto, MIT; and Yakut Gazi, Georgia Tech.

Georgia Tech will host a panel discussion on “Underrepresented Populations in STEM Careers: Why Is Progress So Slow?” on Tuesday, Jan. 28, at 2 p.m. in room 236 of the Global Learning Center. The event, presented by Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE) as part of Georgia Tech’s Career, Research, and Innovation Development Conference (CRIDC), is open to the public and also will be livestreamed here. CRIDC is Georgia Tech's signature professional/career development event for graduate students and postdoctoral scholars.

Yakut Gazi, associate dean for Learning Systems with GTPE, is an organizer and the host of the event. Joining her on the panel will be Lien Diaz, director of Educational Innovation and Leadership, at the Constellations Center for Equity in Computing at Tech’s College of Computing; Sonia Garcia, senior director of Access and Inclusion at Texas A&M’s College of Engineering; and Clara Piloto, director of Global Programs and Digital Plus Programs with MIT Professional Education.

Gazi wants the panel to start a conversation around the long-term impact of higher education initiatives to broaden STEM participation.

“When you look at the career progression of underrepresented groups in STEM, the perception is that the progress is still too slow,” Gazi said. “The panelists will talk about what their respective institutions are doing, and what are some steps that can be taken to address the slow pace.”

Gazi said that even when a field has female representation, the number of women in leadership positions is not proportional.

“Research shows that women are more likely to volunteer for tasks that do not enable them to get promoted into leadership roles,” she said. The tasks include low-level committee work.

“Women are also about 50% more likely to be asked to take on those tasks,” she said. “Women are putting in the effort, but not in the right places that will gain them opportunities to lead and govern."

Gazi said another issue is the need for alliances with groups who have traditionally been in the majority in STEM fields, and who have held the most power.

“We need visible support for underrepresented populations,” she said. “For example, several companies will not allow all-male committees or they will not let their executives participate on all-male panels. This obviously needs institutional and personal commitment to happen.”    

Gazi added that mentorships, recruitment practices, and lifelong learning can also contribute to the advancement of underrepresented populations in STEM careers.  

“At Georgia Tech, it's as important as broadening participation at the undergraduate level. We have to examine our role in increasing the pace of progress in careers and not just in career preparation,” she said. “It’s a commitment to lifetime education.”