After 20+ years in the field, we know that STEM education** is not working for girls* — particularly Black, Indigenous, and Latina girls living in marginalized communities. The data continually shows how few Black, Indigenous, and Latina women are STEM professionals.
We all want more diversity in STEM but this problem is not going to be solved by just focusing on representation alone. We need to not only create and implement equitable STEM programming, but we must also advocate for solutions that address the unique, systemic barriers Black, Indigenous, and Latina girls face in STEM classrooms and programming.
This is the focus of our advocacy work – shifting away from the current narrative, which focuses on increasing representation broadly, to changing the existing systems and structures so that Black, Indigenous, and Latina girls can succeed and persist in STEM.
Our vision — Solving STEM’s Inequity Problem: The Belonging Blueprint — offers advocacy and policy solutions that address the unique, intersectional barriers that prevent Black, Indigenous, and Latina girls from persisting and succeeding in STEM education spaces. This includes:
The lack of intersectional, nuanced data prevents us from identifying and addressing systemic issues that go deeper than representation, bringing us to a place where most STEM solutions focus on diversity alone. In order to create STEM ecosystems where Black, Indigenous, and Latina girls can thrive in the short and long-term, we need to know where the gaps are and what solutions work.
Out of School Time (OST) offers Black, Indigenous, and Latina girls the space and freedom to show up as their full selves in and alongside girls from their own communities, providing the ideal environment for deep, meaningful STEM learning. Yet, we know OST programs are critically underfunded and underestimated. As a result, more kids than ever before are missing out on after-school programs, leaving over 50% of Black, Indigenous, and Latina girls who experience economic insecurity without access to these critical learning opportunities.
Black, Indigenous, and Latina girls deserve a culture of belonging, a safe space where they can be brave, and an accessible place both in and beyond their community where they are not only comfortable but are encouraged to show up and engage as their whole, authentic selves. It’s time for STEM environments to affirm our girls’ authentic selves, rather than push them to assimilate into a world that wasn’t built for them.
STEM is Good for Girls, and Girls are Good for STEM
We all deserve a future where STEM solutions are better, more equitable, and serve everyone. And, in order to achieve this, the STEM field desperately needs Black, Indigenous, and Latina girls to bring their inherent genius, creativity, innovation, and diverse perspectives to the STEM solutions that impact us all. If our girls are encouraged to show up as their full, authentic selves, STEM solutions in infrastructure, healthcare, technology are more inclusive and creative.
And, when Black, Indigenous, and Latina girls get a glimpse of what a future in STEM could look like, their horizons are broadened and their imaginations are allowed to run free. STEM careers offer girls a pathway to upward economic mobility for themselves, their families, and the generations to follow.
Why Focus Our Advocacy On Black, Indigenous, and Latina girls?
We know that blanket, one-size-fits-all solutions don’t address the unique barriers that prevent too many girls from persisting toward STEM careers. And, in the STEM education space, the data shows that Black, Indigenous, and Latina girls are the most impacted by these barriers.
When you implement solutions that are targeted towards the most marginalized, you create better systems for all. In other words, when we advocate for better STEM experiences for Black, Indigenous, and Latina girls, we are not leaving everyone else behind – we are improving STEM experiences for all girls.
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**includes STEM education at the K-12 level; community settings, such as afterschool and summer programs; professional development, such as mentoring programs