Efforts to address diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in engineering and technology fields frequently overlook women of color. Researchers often categorize by single identifiers — gender, race, sexual orientation, or age, for example — and programs and services are often tailored to support individuals within a single, broad category.
Engineers and technologists possess multiple identifiers, however, and these identifiers can introduce various biases, stereotypes, and similar challenges that can make the education and work environments unwelcoming. As we try to implement creative DEI initiatives in STEM, women of color frequently find that programs aimed at serving women disproportionately benefit white women, while programs aimed at serving people of color predominantly benefit men of color.
The first step in addressing DEI in STEM is bringing to light the inequities that exist, starting with a look at representation within these fields. While there has been a slow increase in women’s bachelor’s degree attainment in engineering and computer science, the degrees earned by women of color — specifically Black, Hispanic, and American Indian women — remain only a small fraction of those earned degrees. Figure 1 shows that in 2017-18, while almost 23% of engineering degrees awarded were earned by women, only 4% were earned by women of color. When looking at representation by race among women, only 18% of engineering degrees earned by women were earned by women of color.