How 10,000 Parents Will Inspire Future Scientists and Engineers

How can parents influence under-represented minorities to pursue or complete a STEM education?

The fact is that while more students from all racial backgrounds are entering college with an interest in STEM, the vast majority of these students either complete degrees outside of STEM or drop out of the higher education system altogether.1 Of the students entering college interested in STEM, just over 28% of Caucasian or Asian Americans students complete a STEM degree, and just 16%, 14%, and 13% do so for Latino, Native American, and African American students, respectively.2

That’s a challenge that a group of us with the Arizona Network of Intel African Americans (NIA), one of Intel’s 25 chartered employee groups, recently began tackling.

The Network of Intel African Americans kicked off the new STEMpact initiative in Chandler during National Engineers and Technicians Month by hosting local parents, educators and students.

In typical Intel fashion, we broke out the sticky notes and plastered ideas on the white board. We then applied our business skills, engaged in some healthy debate, and did the analysis that led us to a conclusion: in order to increase the number of under-represented minority students in STEM, parents must be on board, actively engaging in and versed in the possibilities of STEM careers.

We call our effort STEMpact, and are determined to share why and how STEM shapes our lives and our economies with parents and student influencer groups.

Our initial step was to host 50 parents, educators and students in an open forum in Chandler, Arizona. Those who attended agreed that parents play a key role in influencing their children to pursue a STEM education. In fact, those in attendance with STEM degrees shared they had pursued the degree largely because a parent, mentor, or teacher had influenced their decision.

One of the parents, Melvin Polite, remembered how his son had always been curious about how things worked—as evidenced by his son disassembling one of his lamps. He explained one way he had encouraged his son to pursue his technical interests: “I let him explore because as an educator I understood that’s how one learns.”

The Intel STEMpact team pulled together a strategy to engage with parents who can encourage their students to pursue technical degrees.

That type of exploration helped lead another student in attendance, Cameron Smith, to pursue a technical degree: “If someone told me STEM involved race cars and fuel utilization, I would have gotten on board years ago.  Now I know it’s STEM and that’s the reason I’m choosing to pursue an engineering degree.”

STEMpact will bring the message to 10,000 parents and kids to inform them just how influential they can be in the lives of their students. We will do this through fellow employee groups at major Intel sites and train 100 STEM leaders to communicate this to schools, organizations, churches and other key community groups.

Some of the key elements of the STEMpact message are:

  • Parents are the most influential in helping their children decide which career to pursue, according to a STEM Perceptions study.3 For boys, parents were twice as likely as teachers or counselors, and four times as likely as friends to influence them. For girls, parents were three times as likely as teachers and counselors, and 16 times as likely as friends to influence them. Another reason parents are so influential is that, according to a recent MTV study, a majority of kids (58%) view their parents as a best friend.4
  • STEM jobs are more recession-proof5 and yield higher paying salaries than non-STEM careers.6
  • The pay gap in STEM between women and minorities versus Caucasian men is smaller in STEM than in any other occupation.7

By providing parents with information about the opportunities STEM holds, we hope to inspire them to encourage their budding scientists, mathematicians, engineers and technologists.

One parent at the open forum summed it up best, stating, “when you know better, you will do better.”  Her impression on the need for STEM jobs was changed within the 60 minute presentation – and we hope to do so with 10,000 more just like her.

Sources:

(1) Higher Education Research Institute (2010)

(2) The Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles (2010)

(3)   STEM Perceptions: Student & Parent Study By Harris Interactive; commissioned by Microsoft (2011)

(4) MTV Millennials Study commissioned by Intel (2012)

(5) David Langdon, George McKittrick, David Beede, Beethia Khan, and Mark Doms, “STEM: Good Jobs Now and for the Future,” U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, July 2011, http://www.esa.doc.gov/sites/default/files/reports/documents/stemfinaljuly14.pdf, accessed October 2011.

(6) Jason Kobler, “Demand, Pay for STEM Skills Skyrocket,” US News and World Report, October 20, 2011, http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/stem-education/2011/10/20/stem-competency-a-foundational-skill-jobs-expert-says, accessed October 2011.

(7) Anthony P. Carnevale, Nicole Smith, and Michelle Melton, “STEM,” Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, October 2011, http://www9.georgetown.edu/grad/gppi/hpi/cew/pdfs/stem-execsum.pdf, accessed October 2011.

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Barbara Whye

About Barbara Whye

As the Deputy Director of Intel's Diversity in Technology Initiative, Barbara leads the strategy and execution of Intel's recently announced commitment of a $300M Diversity in Technology (DiT) Fund. Barbara works in collaboration with key stakeholders and respective fund decision makers on an integrated strategy that drives Intel's funding selections and public announcements. She is responsible for developing the infrastructure, operational and implementation design of the Fund that positions Intel to successfully achieve its 2020 full representation of women and underrepresented minority goal. As part of her oversight, Barbara also directly leads the team focused on DiT Fund investments in the education pipeline focused on Intel's immediate workforce development needs. Barbara has a BS degree in Electrical Engineering, an MBA and is currently pursuing a PhD in Human and Social Dimensions of Science and Technology at Arizona State University. Prior to transitioning to the philanthropic side of Intel, she spent 15 years in key leadership and project engineering roles responsible for acquiring and starting up new facilities for Intel Corporation worldwide. Barbara led operations for multiple international startups with fast paced ramps resulting in rich and rewarding cultural experiences. She and her family lived in Costa Rica for two years as Intel established a critical manufacturing presence there. She is a Certified Executive Leadership Coach with the International Coach Federation (ICF) and a Professional Facilitator with experience in the fields of program management, strategy development, and mergers/acquisitions. She is a graduate of the Business for Diplomatic Action Fellows Program that resulted in a three-week global leadership exchange in the Middle East and is a recipient of Intel's Lifetime Diversity Achievement Award.