Moving the Numbers

What must be done to prepare African Americans for opportunities in STEM fields

While recruiting is a major concern, Monica Paylor, a geotechnical engineer at Whitman, Requardt and Associates L.L.P., an engineering, architectural, and planning firm headquartered in Baltimore, is worried about the pipeline, as she notices a lack of African American representation in management positions. “There are a lot of meetings that I go to where I’m the only woman and the only black person,” explains Paylor.

Blacks and Hispanics have the same number of managers in science and engineering occupations, at 11,000, yet lag behind the number of whites as managers at 191,000 and Asians at 25,000. Experts suggest that those currently in the industry can assist with increasing numbers by going into schools and talking to students, as well as allowing students to shadow them at work.

“As a black scientist you’re not just working to push the envelope of knowledge for science, sometimes we have a responsibility to do that and look at how we’re representing ourselves in our organization because there are only a few of us,” says Smith. “You have to realize that you may be a trailblazer for someone else.”

This story originally appeared in the July 2009 issue of Black Enterprise magazine.

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