African American Women in Engineering: Statistics and Solutions with Nicole Yates (Ep. 97)
African American Women Engineers’ Silent Struggle Against Indifference
I had a hard time finding a title for this post. I wanted to come up with something that would speak to what people were already searching for. So I went to Google Trends and entered “black women in engineering”. The results showed zero interest over the past 5 years. I tried “African American women in engineering”. Again, no one was searching for these terms, according to Google. I tried narrowing the search to just the United States. Still, there was nothing.
It takes me an average of about 4 hours to produce each podcast episode. This includes curating the news, writing the news summaries, recording the interview, editing the interview, writing the script for the show, recording the show, and a host of other tasks. Suddenly I found myself spending 45 minutes on the title alone.
I thought that perhaps I wasn’t entering the correct search terms, or that something was wrong with Google’s algorithm. Then, after a longer period of time than it probably should have taken, I realized that this is exactly the problem. I concluded that the lack of search inquiries for “African American women in engineering” over half a decade is further proof of an epidemic. African American women engineers are almost completely invisible. To make matters worse, no one cares.
But you’re going to find out today that only part of my conclusion was true. While African American women engineers are indeed working in near-anonymity, my guest today cares about them. Nicole Yates cares about the dearth of African American women engineers and she wants to do something about it, which is why she edited a recent paper entitled Ignored Potential: A Collaborative Roadmap for Increasing African American Women in Engineering. The paper pulls together insights from some of the best minds working on improving diversity, inclusion and retention in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
The paper is solutions-focused, but its recommendations address two central statistics:
- African Americans comprised just 4% of engineering degrees awarded in 2015, which is down a full percentage point, from 5%, in 2006.
- The number of engineering bachelor’s degrees awarded to African American women has declined from 1,100 in 2005, to 809 in 2011 (Slaughter, J. B., Tao, Y., & Pearson, W. (2015). Changing the face of engineering: The African American experience. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press).
I hope you’ll take some time to explore this issue further and include Nicole and her colleagues in your efforts.
Nicole Yates is the National Society of Black Engineers’ Senior Research Analyst and Applications Specialist. In this role, she conducts training, produces original research, and coordinates with an external network of researchers who support NSBE’s mission.Nicole holds a Master’s degree in Psychology from Stanford University. Her original thesis research focused on the dearth of women in STEM fields, an issue that personally concerns her. Nicole also completed her undergraduate degrees at Stanford (B.A., Psychology and B.A., Drama), where she participated in numerous activities including political advocacy, volunteer tutoring, and service-oriented trips. Prior to joining NSBE, Nicole served as an adjunct faculty member at Grand Canyon University in her hometown of Phoenix, Arizona.
Ignored Potential: A Collaborative Road Map for Increasing African-0American Women in Engineering edited by Nicole Yates (NSBE, 2017)
Working Smarter Not Just Harder by Carl Reid
Changing the Face of Engineering edited by Dr. John Brooks Slaughter, Yu Tao and Willie Pearson, Jr.
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