How to solve the lack of STEM diversity?

The above was yesterday posed to students at Guildford County School during their privilege of hosting Dame Maggie Aderin-Pocock DBE (award-winning author, STEM pioneer, space scientist and science educator).

Working on the James Webb Space Telescope; being featured on TV shows (e.g., CBeebies Stargazing); working in the MoD on aircraft missile warning systems; pioneering a hand-held landmine detection system; being a Commissioner for the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities; and even working on missions to other star systems all form part of the impressive CV of this prominent scientific role model.

The catch? She's often an unintended first.

For example, she was the first black woman to win a gold medal in the Physics News Award.

As a neurodiverse black woman, she's key to this controversial issue, and stresses she shouldn't be such an uncommon sight - such firsts are long overdue!

Shockingly, 87% of the the STEM workforce is white, and only 12% is from ethnic minorities. Furthermore, only 27% of the STEM workforce is female, compared to 52% of the wider workforce (according to recent data from the APPG on Diversity and Inclusion in STEM).

This issue's caused by multiple factors...

A dangerous false narrative can emerge from history being taught by the victors and dominant groups; this belittles the importance of the underrepresented groups' discoveries, and discourages them from STEM!

In fact, countless other cultures contributed to our current cosmological comprehension; the Mayans built huge pyramids for astronomy, and Arab cultures created elaborate astrolabes to help understand the mysteries of the heavens.

Yet low workforce diversity remains problematic, due to a lack of education otherwise!

But there is hope, or so Rachel Doyle (a 'Lean and Continuous Improvement Specialist' working in manufacturing,) believes.

Doyle's peers often commented on "the fact I am a woman in engineering... one of 5-10 females on my university course of 50... I have always been frustrated when people show surprise at the fact I am a woman in STEM... often they assume I am a chemist, not an engineer."

I have seen from my own son the enjoyment from learning about STEM, from programming, Lego models, science museums, and just wish that as many people as possible are able to experience that."

Despite "problems encouraging everyone into STEM, including ensuring diversity", she believes the solution is to encourage "an interest in Stem in children from a young age."

"I think the important thing is... to get diversity of thinking, how do you encourage differences for creativity.  I think this is something all companies are more aware of now."

"Starting early is essential," she explains. "I think mentoring and creating role models is also important.  I have seen from my own son the enjoyment from learning about STEM... and just wish that as many people as possible are able to experience that."

Doyle's convinced importance must be place upon "showing diversity in roles in STEM, the opportunities that it brings and what is possible."