The Association for Women in Science (AWIS) released a report last month highlighting the issue of diversity in STEM. The report, entitled Revolutionizing the STEM Entrepreneurship Ecosystem uses real world data to create solutions that industry experts can utilize today to improve representation in STEM. “The report identifies and addresses three critical points for women and women of color tech and science entrepreneurs: the myth that there is a “pipeline problem,” the fact that traditional accelerator programs are not working for this population and how investors can fix the funding gap.”
To start, on a positive note, US companies have seen an increase in diverse leadership with 45% of corporations being headed by women. Unfortunately, these numbers have yet to trickle into the STEM field where companies like Google, Microsoft, and Apple reign supreme.
When tackling the three issues plaguing diversity in STEM point by point, a few key data points emerge.
For the first point or the myth that there is a “pipeline problem,” this seems to simply not be true. More women and people of color are graduating with degrees in STEM and the issue more so lies in recruiting. If companies continue to recruit people from educational institutions that look and think like them, then it becomes harder to move the diversity needle. Expanding the pipeline is necessary to reach more diverse candidates.
For the second point on addressing traditional accelerator programs for STEM entrepreneurs, according to AWIS, “these programs tend to be “rigid and exclusionary,” embedded with largely unconscious biases that lead them to accept and reward people who resemble the existing stereotype of a successful entrepreneur (typically, a white male).” While no direct solution was advised for people within STEM, AWIS instead created “their own accelerator called STEM to Market (S2M), which is specifically aimed at supporting women and women of color.”
In the last point concerning the funding gap, AWIS notes that over “the last two years, only 2.2% of total venture capital dollars and less than 15% of angel funds went to companies led by women.” This is one of the most unsettling issues within STEM and one that can be resolved by hiring more women and people of color at funding organizations. While an overly simplified solution, similar to the “pipeline” issue, expanding the funding and investing network can do wonders to properly granting opportunities to startups led by minorities and women.