Diversity and Inclusion in STEM Fields Must Be Woven Into the Culture

Building a diverse and inclusive workforce and culture will not happen overnight. Here are steps STEM companies can take to ensure DE&I.

Diversity and Inclusion in STEM - Training Magazine

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) have long been a topic of discussion for senior leadership at businesses across the United States. However, to truly achieve DE&I, especially in traditionally male-dominated industries such as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), DE&I must be woven into the fabric of a company’s culture.

Understandably, this takes time. Building a diverse and inclusive workforce and culture will not happen overnight. There are critical steps companies can take to ensure their actions back up their words. After all, in a time when the “Great Resignation” seems to be affecting all businesses across the economy, filling the pipeline, attracting, and retaining diverse talent is vital both to the success of companies and STEM-related industries as a whole.

Building the Pipeline: Create Training and Development Programs

As DE&I has continued to become a bigger priority within society over the last decade, organizations such as Great Minds in STEM (GMiS) and the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) have created programs that specifically focus on promoting, educating, and spotlighting diverse talent in the field.

For example, each year during its annual conference, GMiS selects its Luminary honorees for those outstanding professionals in the STEM industry who have made significant contributions to the Hispanic technical community as leaders and role models. These individuals initiate, collaborate, and lead critical programs and research within their companies. Diversity within any industry is essential as it brings perspectives from people of different backgrounds and various ways of thinking to solve a common problem. In a career field that rewards out-of-the-box thinking and innovation, having a diverse workforce increases a company’s productivity. It helps it become more creative and profitable. This year, I was honored as a Luminary for my contributions to this effort through Shell, which has long been an advocate of diversity and inclusion within the space and has instituted numerous partnerships to support the effort.

Shell’s partnerships—some spanning decades—include a variety of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), from the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME) to GMiS, to name just two. Understanding how vital it is to begin fostering an interest in STEM for the next generation, Shell works with different organizations to ensure underserved students of all ages are introduced to the opportunities and inspired to pursue careers in STEM.

Attracting Talent: Promote Representation

Once these programs and initiatives are in place, promoting representation among underserved demographics is crucial. From my experience, pursuing STEM was not only an option but a likely possibility since I come from a family where my father, brother, and sister were all in the STEM field.

However, not everyone is so fortunate to have visual representation so readily available as inspiration. Knowing this, I was driven to share my story and participate in various resource groups, events, and recruitment initiatives so that young Hispanic students and professionals could have a role model. I am part of the recruitment team for my alma mater, The University of Oklahoma, where I talk to students about the opportunities and benefits of a career in the field. Additionally, since joining Shell, I’ve contributed to internal groups such as WAVE, a women’s employee resource group (ERG); POWER (Promoting Opportunities for Women across Ethnicity and Race); and most recently, I was appointed the Hispanic ERG (SHEN) Chapter president. My goal in this role is to increase membership engagement to maintain an inclusive and culturally aware environment and provide development opportunities.

With a workforce encompassing myriad cultures and experiences, these employee resource groups provide cultural empowerment and awareness to all employees. By promoting representation, we can educate each other on the intricacies of our cultures to encourage an inclusive environment where everyone’s contributions are valued.

Retaining the Best: Foster a Mentor and Allyship Mentality

When it is typical for talent to jump from company to company every few years, how to retain employees is a dilemma all employers face. However, there are ways to curb at least some of the flow and entice talent to stay. For example, providing mentorship to young professionals joining the company helps their growth, builds relationships, and fosters loyalty.

As part of my career and leadership growth, I am grateful I have had the opportunity to learn from multiple role models. The advice I received and would like to share with any young professional is to build your own personal “board of advisors” that can provide insight and advice on different aspects of your career. This is especially important for Hispanic professionals and other underrepresented groups in STEM as there are many intricacies that mentors and allies would be able to guide them through.

My experience leading in the DE&I space has taught me the importance of allyship. There are many forms of allyship, from joining a resource group to learning other perspectives and cultures to being self-aware about unconscious bias. Through each individual’s efforts, sustainable change in the culture will occur.

While achieving DE&I both at companies and throughout the STEM industry will continue to take time, we as a society are making progress. With each generation, we are seeing more diverse representation within the STEM workforce, which subsequently has caused DE&I to become ingrained within our working mentality. With large corporations such as Shell leading the way and focusing more on their own internal and external policies, I am optimistic about the future.