AERA Participates in WMPD (Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities) Day to Advance Understanding of Diversity in STEM
AERA Participates in WMPD (Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities) Day to Advance Understanding of Diversity in STEM

May 2021

On May 12, AERA joined the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the Consortium of Social Science Associations (COSSA), the Federation of Associations in Behavioral & Brain Sciences (FABBS), and Sage Publishing in holding Understanding Diversity in STEM: WMPD Day. This day of online sessions highlighted a recent National Science Foundation (NSF) report and celebrated women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in STEM who are making a difference around the world. AERA President Na’ilah Suad Nasir was featured among the event speakers.

Organized by COSSA, FABBS, and Sage, and sponsored by AERA and AAAS, this event stems from the report, “Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering,” released on April 29. The report, which Congress requires the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) to deliver in odd-numbered years, provides important statistical information about the participation of these three groups in science and engineering education and employment.

During the 30-minute opening session, leaders from the NSF, the National Science Board (NSB), and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) offered remarks on the gains that have been made and gaps that remain, shared stories of WMPD in STEM, and noted the significance of the key findings from the NSF report. Speakers included NSF Director Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, NSF Assistant Director Arthur Lupia, NCSES Director Emilda Rivers, National Science Board Chair Ellen Ochoa, former NSF Deputy Director Cora Marrett, and NASEM President Marcia McNutt.

Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan

"As we consider the findings of the newly released WMPD report, I hope that these stories stay with you and motivate each one of us to continue to do the important work to build a more inclusive and diverse STEM community," said Panchanathan, "I hope that each one of you will find this report useful in guiding your efforts across NSF and continuing to inspire change in the days and years to come."

Following the opening session, AAAS held a Twitter talk on the 2021 WMPD report findings. During the conversation, AAAS's Inclusive STEM Ecosystems for Equity and Diversity Team explored pathways to facilitate systemic transformation in supporting women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in STEM.

The third session of the day was titled “LGBTQ+ and Multiracial Demographics in WMPD: Opportunities and Challenges for Inclusion.” Scholars discussed LGBTQ+ and multiracial demographics in the country and within the STEM fields and how the NSF report might best serve diversity and inclusion in the future. Moderated by Sandra Graham (University of California, Los Angeles), the session featured Jon Freeman (New York University), Michael Medina (University of California, Davis), and Adrienne Nishina (University of California, Davis).

Jon Freeman, sharing his screen

"Estimates suggest that LGBTQ people are 17–21 percent less represented in the STEM workforce than statistically expected based on their prevalence in the U.S. population,” said Freeman. “LGBTQ people also encounter a nonsupportive STEM environment and are more likely to experience career barriers, harassment, and professional devaluation than non-LGTBQ people. It's important to collect official nationwide data to track LGBTQ disparities and develop strategies to increase retention of LGBTQ people in STEM if there are leakages.”

The Congressional Chemistry Caucus held a session titled "Changing the Future of STEM: The Importance of a Diverse and Inclusive STEM Education Pipeline," featuring Camille Schrier, biochemist, doctor of pharmacy student, and Miss America 2020. Schrier discussed how diversity in STEM could help create better science and increase the opportunities for future scientists.

In the closing session, a panel of social and behavioral scientists explored how to build a more diverse and dynamic STEM workforce. AERA President Na'ilah Suad Nasir was joined by Erin Cech, assistant professor at the University of Michigan; Mary Murphy, professor at Indiana University; and Claude Steele, emeritus professor at Stanford University.

Na'ilah Suad Nasir

“From the report, we see again the dismal experience that many racial minority students, women, and students with disabilities at all levels experience,” said Nasir. “In order to support learning, we need systemic change in areas such as district-level shared goals and strategies, teacher pipeline and professional development, and policies, structures, and interactions to affirm and create belonging.”