In Seoul, Korea, speaking about diversity & inclusion in engineering. #ThinkBigDiversity #WEEF2016

This morning in Seoul, I had the honor of participating on an invited inter-generational panel to discuss “The role of engineering education in the quest for smart societies.” I discussed the importance of including voices from people from all groups, and valuing different perspectives. The key that one must invite people from different groups to be involved. They have to be at the table.


It was important to frame the discussion in terms of my own work with bringing people from different ethnic groups into spaces where they have not been strong participants, due to lack of exposure or invitation. I used the National Science Foundation’s statistics to frame the term “underrepresented minority” by highlighting graduation data for science and engineering degrees earned by African-Americans, Hispanic/Latino(a) [denoting Cuban, Mexican, South and Central American heritage and those with Spanish culture or origin], people of American Indian/Native American and Alaska Native heritage [noting that there are more than 500 tribes in the U.S.], Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders [with origins from Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands.]

The data gives a picture that is no where near parity. We know this, but it often bears repeating as a reminder that we have lots of work to do before we achieve measures of equity. When you combine all of the underrepresented groups above, only 18.9% have undergraduate degrees in science and engineering, 13.7 % have master’s degrees, and 7.3% have doctorates. When you disaggregate further to look at underrepresented minority women , the data show that only 3.1% have undergraduate degrees in science and engineering. This means that there are very few women from underrepresented groups who will go on to get advanced degrees, because there aren’t very many in the pipeline at the undergraduate level. Certainly we must do more to broaden the recruitment of students from underrepresented groups, but we must also retain those who are already enrolled.


I talked about representing “Gen X,” and asked that employers and professors, as well as students who will become the future employers and professors remember to actively seek diverse perspectives as they develop solutions.


I also asked the audience to be sure to include diverse audiences as they bring people to the table to address the Grand Challenges, e.g., clean water, cybersecurity, renewable energy.


Speaking of the Grand Challenges, our group had a chance to take a photo with Dr. Dan Mote, President of the National Academy of Engineering, soon after his talk about the Grand Challenges Scholars Program.