By Anike Sakariyawo
It’s a well-known fact that Black women are the most educated group of women in the United States and have been receiving degrees at a higher rate for years. However, diversity with Black women is lacking in the STEM workforce. A 2016 report from National Science Foundation showed that despite Black women earning over 33,000 bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields, only five percent of senior-level positions were held by Black men and women combined. According to the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES), only two percent of STEM jobs are held by Black women and to make matters worse, we are more likely to earn the lowest wages in the field.
It is evident that this gap in the STEM field for people of color, specifically Black women, can be traced back to the disparities in K-12 and post-secondary education. Not only are young girls not being encouraged to enter the STEM field, but they are not seeing enough people that look like them in it. It is readily accepted that fewer women and racial minorities will have a career in STEM; this can be seen primarily in college, where more men major in STEM subjects than women, especially more Asian and white students.
Those are the odds that the S.E.E.K (Seeking Education Empowers Knowledge) Foundation is fighting against. S.E.E.K programs are about providing equal education for students of all backgrounds. We are striving to reduce the disparities in education and training which in turn addresses economic instability for people of color. Our programs aim to empower students so they can see how their thoughts and creations can improve their community and society as a whole. We utilize hands-on experiments to teach STEM subjects that are not traditionally taught during the school day so that students become familiar with STEM and are not intimidated by the field.
Diversity of people and ideas are extremely important in STEM because it allows people from diverse cultures to bring different ideas related to innovation. My life’s mission has and will be to continue to create and provide a passion for STEM, so that students of color from low-income neighborhoods may choose a career path in STEM. It is important that Black girls see themselves represented in the STEM field. We are creating spaces where they see reflections of themselves and don’t buy into the narrative that has been created about them. Diversity among Black women in the STEM field allows children to see their moms, aunts, sisters and grandmothers in positions that help change the narrative. Ensuring that Black girls know that Black women have been changing the world through STEM for a long time will normalize their place in the field. It is our job to ensure the field is diverse and inclusive so that when a young Black woman steps into a STEM workplace, they will not be the only person of color in the room.
Anike Sakariyawo is founder of S.E.E.K Foundation, Inc., (Seeking Education Empowers Knowledge) a mobile, nonprofit organization providing services to schools and other organizations in Miami Dade and Broward County, Florida, as well as Atlanta, Georgia. Its three pillars are: STEM (Science Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) Health and Fitness and Community Involvement. S.E.E.K has earned awards and recognition from Dwayne Wade, Leaders Recognizing Leaders among many others, and provides equal access to STEM/STEAM programs by bridging the disparity gap prevalent in the lives of children of color. For more information, visit seekedu.org.