Despite movements to encourage diversity in STEM industries and fields, great disparities can still be seen. A Pew Research Center study found that, while women are overrepresented in health-related professions, the number of women in computer and engineering fields is still strikingly low. In addition, racial and ethnic diversity is not particularly prevalent in STEM, with black and Hispanic workers not being fully represented. That’s not to mention diversity of ability, both physical and cognitive. Diversity is a vital element of STEM, a necessity that must be worked towards. Here are three reasons why diversity is so important.
New solutions require an innate understanding of unique challenges
Solutions to almost every problem in the world, from building a bridge to solving global warming, depend on science, engineering or math that ultimately results in new technology. Individuals who are educated and trained in STEM fields are far more capable of designing solutions to problems that others just like them face than do those who do not face the same challenges. As computer scientist Patty Lopez says, unique backgrounds and experiences lend to successful STEM efforts.
“Each of us has a unique view of the world, which offers opportunities to grow and expand our technical ‘toolbox,’” Lopez explains. “The more ways we can perceive and solve problems the increased likelihood that we won’t miss a critical perspective.”
New solutions require diverse thinking
Ultimately, new solutions require outside-of-the-box thinking but that type of thinking generally comes from people who have actually viewed the world outside of the box. In other words, Americans may have a problem they can’t find an answer to that a person born and raised in South Africa might see far more readily.
Again, Lopez puts it nicely as she says, “Without a range of perspectives, we limit our ability to understand and design for our customers, and undermine our continued relevance and growth as an industry.”
Diversity creates solutions that benefit everyone
Historically, most solutions to the most pernicious problems have benefitted one group to the detriment of others. While mutually beneficial solutions may take more time and effort to develop, they are the only solutions that work for mass benefit in the long-term. When people from various backgrounds come together to create solutions, they naturally seek solutions that are in the best interests of “their” people. This is at no fault of their own—they come in with their own experiences and perspectives, not someone else’s. By bringing together several different people with vastly diverse experiences and perspectives, but all under one common goal, STEM professionals can come up with the fairest and most equitable solutions.