People of color and women are urgently needed to build a robust 21st century STEM workforce, but even though women receive about half of all STEM degrees in the United States, they comprise only 30% of STEM professionals.
Research suggests that social challenges are holding women back: They lack role models, and implicit bias reinforces the stereotype that women are not good at STEM subjects. Other underrepresented people in STEM face the same challenges. For example, as compared to 11% of the overall workforce, Black Americans make up only 9% of STEM workers, while Latinos make up only 7% of STEM workers as compared to 16% overall.
To increase the STEM workforce, young women and Historically Underrepresented Minority (HURM) students need role models who inspire them to enter STEM fields, but mainstream history books are woefully lacking in chronicling the important contributions of underrepresented scientists, engineers, and mathematicians.
To help fill this critical void, Broadcom Foundation is partnering with Wiki Education to task college and university students at diverse institutions with researching unacknowledged STEM pioneers and publishing their untold stories in Wikipedia. These biographies will empower the next generation of STEM professionals by revealing the rich histories and important contributions of STEM pioneers who “look like me” — written by students at diverse institutions like Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), and Tribal Colleges & Universities (TCUs).
Diversifying Wikipedia’s STEM biographies
Wiki Education is currently undertaking a multi-year initiative to increase the number of biographies of underrepresented STEM professionals on Wikipedia. Using the power of our Wikipedia Student Program, we will train college and university students at diverse institutions how to improve Wikipedia’s coverage of biographies of underrepresented STEM professionals.
Through this program, university faculty assign students to edit course-related topics on Wikipedia as a class assignment. Rather than write a research paper read only by their professor, students learn how to express information for a general audience, a key STEM communication skill for the 21st century.
Students’ work is raising the visibility of unsung scientists, engineers and mathematicians for the 450 million of readers of Wikipedia, including young people considering careers in STEM. In partnership with Broadcom Foundation, students have brought 30 new biographies of women and people of color in STEM, with a focus on technology professionals. The Foundation will continue to support this work, culminating in 100 new biographies by the end of 2024.
Wiki Education is seeking additional STEM partners to expand the initiative to other STEM disciplines. For more information on how to join this initiative, reach out to Kathleen Crowley, Director of Donor Relations, at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 240-255-8433.
What participants say
“Learning about Wikipedia’s lack of biographies of people of color and women in STEM fields opened my eyes to the privilege and power that news and social media platforms possess. Our nation has a history of presenting information that portrays African Americans and people of color in a negative light. The absence of positive contributions from groups that have been historically marginalized can be equally oppressive. Because of these inequities that exist, I made a conscious decision to choose an African American male as a subject. After learning about DeLoatch’s development of Morgan State University’s engineering program, and that he is responsible for training more African American engineers than anyone else in the world, writing his Wikipedia bio became more than a graded assignment. DeLoatch deserves the type of public recognition that possessing a Wikipedia biography article grants.” -Kimberly Ivy, who created the biography of Eugene M. DeLoatch
“I chose Christina Hernández because she is the very first representation that I have seen in all my 22 years of Latinas in the aerospace field.” – Dayanna Perez, who created the biography of Christina Hernández
“Wikipedia has helped students to understand more about why they should grow, learn, and earn a career in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. They were able to be proud of people who look like them. Wikipedia has helped students to continue to see others who are working in many of the areas where many minorities are underrepresented. Students gained a better understanding for procedures and requirements for why reading and writing skills are needed in today’s careers, and many of the students have modified their views. This initiative helped change their mind about pursuing a career in STEM.” – Corry Stevenson, instructor at Denmark Technical College