By Preston Zhou, Irvington High School Student Guest Writer, with Jeanette Ramos.
I think oftentimes, people don’t realize just how drastic the underrepresentation of
women and minorities in science and technology really is. According to the United States
Census, over 75% of all STEM jobs are held by men, and over 90% of tech jobs at big
companies such as Google are held by workers of Caucasian and Asian racial backgrounds.
The effects go beyond just discrimination against minorities, it also excludes a major
proportion of people from contributing their own ideas, experiences, and perspectives to
the field. Especially because we live in the Silicon Valley, underrepresentation is a
close-to-home issue that affects many Bay Area citizens daily.
At the Fall 2014 Engineering in Action after school series, I was able to see how San Jose State
University students were able to encourage elementary school children of color from
Third Street Community Center to participate in science and technology activities. The
main factor that I noticed aligned with what I found during my research as well—the
experiments were heavily focused on hands-on, application-based activities, which has
been shown to be better than merely explaining the theoretical and experimental
findings of science. In addition, the presenters were a diverse and multicultural group,
which according to Professor Ilumoka of the University of Hartford, increases the
interest level of racial minority children.
I think some solutions to this problem would have to lie in popular media, especially in
convincing people to portray scientists as women and people of color, rather than just men of
an overrepresented race in STEM fields. We should fund more programs to increase
representation across the board, and actively encourage and foster children and people of
color’s interest in science and technology at an early age. Because we live in the central hub of
technology, companies in the Bay Area should lead the vanguard and serve as a role model for
other companies by integrating more women and minorities in STEM fields.
Engineering In Action is collaborative project with CommUniverCity San Jose, 7 local after-
school programs, and San Jose State University College of Engineering’s Material Engineering
Department. The program was founded by Dr. Stacy Gleixner in Fall 2010 and is a
continuation of Inquiry in Action which began in Spring 2006. The project has helped SJSU
Material engineering students to share their passion for engineering and science through
hands on experiments with local after-school students. The program continues with the
support of Dr. Jared Tuberty, Dr. Michael Oye, Dr.Christina Peters, Dr. Raj Venkatesh, and
their Material Engineering courses (MATE 25 and MATE 153)
Special Note: Thank you Preston for your help in assisting with Engineering in Action in
Fall 2014. It is very motivating to see youth and future scientist like yourself working with
communities of color. Because of your compassion, motivation and advocacy, I know
that the future will better in including more people of color in STEM fields. Best of luck in
college! –J. Ramos