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Experts: Minority Successes Don’t Mean an End to STEM Diversity Issues

In the journey to increasing diversity within the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics fields, minorities have come far but they are not there; and only by providing the resources, mentoring, and including everyone will the United States become No.1 in STEM worldwide.

That was the message panelists delivered Thursday at the National Science Foundation in Washington, D.C., after the screening of Crystal Emery’s film, “Black Women in Medicine.”

Crystal Emery’s “Black Women in Medicine.”Crystal Emery’s “Black Women in Medicine.”

“We don’t want you to give it to us, just open up the damn door and we’ll get it ourselves,” said Emery.

One of the panelists discussing the film, Sarah EchoHawk, CEO of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, said the United States has not fulfilled its promise of providing Native Americans an education in exchange for land. “We’re not getting the resources that we need, we’re not getting the funding that we need, the challenge is there,” EchoHawk said.

According to, a nonprofit that focuses on higher education for Native Americans, only 5 percent of Native Americans attend four year colleges directly after high school, and only 10 percent graduate within four years.

“We really need to continue to funnel resources into Indian country to train more Native teachers, to look at updating curriculum and making it culturally appropriate because when native students do that and they receive that they can be more EchoHawk said.

EcoHawk said that based on her experience as a Native-American child, students should be aggressive and find their own mentors and ask questions to open doors and opportunities. Dr. Eugene DeLoatch, founding dean of the school of engineering at Morgan State University, and Jill Houghton, president and CEO of U.S. Business Leadership Network, agreed that mentoring played a major role in their path to STEM.

However, Houghton said that students with disabilities are also not included in the progress of STEM. She said technology is constantly changing but the lack of accessibility to technology is “closing doors.”

“At companies, if they’ve got videos and I’m deaf, if it’s not captioned how do I know what it says? If I am blind on Netflix and it’s not audio-described when I’m watching ‘House of Cards,’ then I am not included,” said Houghton.

She encourages students to get involved in STEM to find solutions to help people with disabilities.

The United States ranked average in science and below average in mathematics in 2015 among 35 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development according to a cross national test Program for International Assessment.

“I’m really concerned about whether we’re going to be able to save this nation,” said DeLoatch. “I know where the saviors are if we only bring ourselves to recognize it … and they’re in our inner cities, our rural communities, they’re across this nation and if we don’t bring them into the ballgame I don’t think we’re going to win.”

The documentary, hosted by URU The Right To Be Inc., showcased many history-making African-American women who overcame discrimination and other obstacles to claim their places in the medical field. Throughout the film, African-American doctors emphasized that patients relate to people who look like them. Emery said she hoped that by showing minority students the documentary, they would be influenced toward STEM professions.

“None of the people that I interviewed got caught up in race, gender or socioeconomics to deter them from pursuing their dreams,” said Emery. “Ordinary people can do extraordinary things.”

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