On March 23rd I was invited back to my undergraduate university, University of Delaware, to talk about STEM diversity in higher education. The main reason I was invited back? Because some of my old professors and mentors are friends with me on Facebook and have been witness to my endless rants, discussions and posts about underrepresented minorities in STEM at the undergraduate, graduate and faculty level. Needless to say I was shocked that anyone would want hear that in person but I was more than happy to accept the opportunity to do some outreach with undergraduate students and go back to one of my favorite places. You can watch the vide of the presentation here!
Due to the fact that I was terribly nervous and forgot some of things I wanted to highlight in the presentation, I thought that I would take a moment here to discuss.
Pay disparities and Unemployment rates among underrepresented groups in STEM
This graph shows the differences in wages over time of different academic faculty based on sex and race. Dr. Griffiths was thoughtful enough to point out that whatever difference in salary you start with, is likely the difference in salary you will retire with despite the raises you will recieve. I additionally wanted to point out that for those underrepresented minorities who also come from low-income backgrounds, getting paid less than their white and asian male counterparts usually means that it will be harder for them to gain wealth at the same rates.
An example of this would be those who have had to take out student loans. If a male student and a female student take out the same amount of student loans to get through college, it is going to take longer for the woman to pay back her loans and be a bigger burden. A white female makes $.70 cents per $1.00 her white male counterpart makes. This pay gap gets bigger when you separate women out by race. Then add in the fact that it’s less likely for a member of an underrepresented group to even find a job in the first place and the disparities and disadvantages get even bigger.
So when people are trying to recruit minorities into STEM with the claim that their life will be better and they can make more money, they should really be taking some of these numbers into account. People, myself included, can justify higher loan costs if they know they are making a lot of money post graduation. But if that’s not really a guarantee, we might be stuck later with a ton of debt and low pay or no job at all.
I tried to highlight microaggressions as much as possible during my talk but I barely even scratched the service. There is actually a lot of research out there on microaggressions and the effects they have on underrepresented groups. So I really just wanted to take the time here to tell you to search the literature and take in the information and MAKE CHANGES.
Mentorship and Outreach
I mentioned how important both mentorship and outreach were in increasing overall diversity in STEM. I also mentioned how important the inclusion piece is. What I didn’t really touch upon was the importance of checking your biases and privilege while doing this work. I was in a seminar with Dr. Darris Means at the University of Georgia the last month where it was mentioned that many times we assume because someone comes from an underrepresented group that they are at a deficit. However, a lot of times we don’t look at the strengths and attributes that people from these groups already have. I think that is SO important. If you approach your mentorship and outreach from a place of superiority or from the assumption that you have everything to offer and people from these groups have nothing to offer, you are hindering the beneficial relationship that could develop. Especially as an academic it is easy to assume that you know more that a lot of people. YOU DON’T. Take the time to listen and learn from your mentees and the people you are outreaching to.
This is a BIG one. With the daily onslaught of ‘isms and microaggressions from all of the identities that you carry with you, self care is SO important. This doesn’t just include beauty regimens and hot baths. Although I love a hot bath with eucalyptus infused epsom salt, sometimes that is just not enough. It includes going to the doctor regularly, eating good food, getting exercise and seeing a professional for mental health. I really do recommend that everyone see a therapist but it is especially important for those of us who are the few and the only’s in our departments and our fields. At the very least finding a mentor who you can vent to is very important. I am on of the first people to let go of my self care when I’m stressed out and it NEVER turns out well. I feel so much better about myself and in general when I take care of myself. Have I mentioned that this is important?
Overall my experience during this seminar was very positive. The audience seemed receptive and great questions were asked. This work is especially close to my hear and I love doing it. I just want to say thank you once again to UD and CANR for inviting me back.