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#WhyNotMe: STEM Diversity Drivers

What is the compelling question or challenge?

How do we get all members of our society to think of a career in STEM and ask #WhyNotMe? There are a wealth of programs, some funded by NSF, but what works and what are the barriers?

What do we know now about this Big Idea and what are the key research questions we need to address?

What we know is in spite of decades of attention there remains a well documented deficit of women and minorities in many key roles and career stages of the STEM enterprise. We also know many people and organizations have tried to address this question, sometimes through individual programs, sometimes through targeted training grants, sometimes through specific educational approaches or environments, sometimes through informal mechanisms and many more examples. We see small but incremental changes, and we don’t see the deficits change at all levels or for all groups who could contribute to the diversity of the STEM community. Yet we cannot answer what really works to get a person underrepresented STEM in any of these areas from education though university or corporate leadership to say #WhyNotMe! I can be the CEO or President of the company, entrepreneur professor, engineer, scientists or related professional. Conversely, we know many barriers exist yet we cannot clearly state those most critical and most systematically addressed to efficiently advance the goal of a truly diverse STEM workforce.

Two people answering the simple question #WhyNotMe can see this in two completely opposite ways. The positive perspective says #WhyNotMe as much as any other person? I’m just as qualified, excited and capable to make STEM my life long goal. The negative perspective says, this is #WhyNotMe. Here are all the reasons I’m not qualified, capable or able to make STEM my life long goal. Perhaps even worse, someone else or society is telling them why not them.

So the first question is: What is a boost to the person asking themselves #WhyNotMe. When a person answers this question from the perspective “why not me as much as anyone else” what got them to that internal dialog? Can we take data across programs and apply a meta analysis type approach to systematically identify key features that promote individuals to say #WhyNotMe!

The second question is: what are the barriers that drive people to take themselves out of the opportunity to be in the STEM workforce? When a person asks themselves #WhyNotMe what are those things they say to themselves or hear from others or society that make them say it cannot be me because........

So the third question is, in what fundamentally new way can we systematically and in an unbiased way answer these questions? How can we identify a broad series of approaches that have attempted to address the issue and ask, if we look at the data and determine what distinguishes successful from unsuccessful approaches what are the common characteristics. Can we take data across programs and apply a meta analysis type approach to systematically identify key features that promote individuals to say #WhyNotMe! Could we select programs from all across country and not ask what is a best practice because it may have succeeded in one place that may have unique characteristics, resources, or populations and instead ask what are the fundamentals that are successful and conversely what are the barriers that impede meaningful progress at scale.

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