Decreasing The STEM Diversity Gap

Blair Blackwell from Chevron talks about the company’s efforts to reduce the gender and diversity gap in engineering.

Imagine walking into your first year engineering course and realizing you’re the only person of your race or gender in the room. 

As many in engineering know, there remains a persistent diversity gap in STEM fields. Women and racial minorities are generally underrepresented throughout engineering, from education to employment.

Many companies believe that encouraging girls and minorities to pursue STEM at a young age is the key to reducing the STEM diversity gap.

Chevron is one example and the Chevron STEM Zone program is one of the ways this company aims to introduce future engineers to the world of STEM. was fortunate enough to speak with Blair Blackwell, manager of education and corporate programs at Chevron, about what can be done to improve diversity throughout the STEM fields.

Addressing the Gender Diversity Gap

According to Blackwell, Chevron aims to improve the future of engineering diversity through support of their own STEM programs, as well as working with partners to pursue initiatives examining diversity.  One such initiative is a recently launched paper with the organization  TechBridge works toward getting middle-school girls engaged in STEM education.

“I think this is one of the really key points: you’ve got to start early, and stick with it.  This is truly a long game. If we’re looking at having a diverse workforce in the future—10 years out, 20 years out—we’ve got to start with those students who are 10 years old today, and even younger,” Blackwell said.

An important component of this is to recognize when designing STEM programs for girls, that not every girl is exactly the same.

“It’s about ensuring that you’re designing programs with girls in mind, not only in the classroom, but outside the classroom and working with parents to show girls all of the possibilities there are with STEM education and with the engineering design process,” Blackwell added.

Programs to Reduce the Racial Minority Gap in Engineering

Along with the gender diversity gap, there is also a diversity gap regarding racial minorities learning and working in engineering and STEM fields.  Chevron pursues programming aimed at improving this gap as well.

“Just like with girls, we’ve got to start very early.  One of the things we must look into is ensuring that there are role models that are able to speak to various communities,” said Blackwell.  Chevron employees and other professionals—through Chevron’s partners and affinity network—reach out to act as role models and mentors to the younger generation.

“It is very important for students to be able to see someone who looks like them, that came from their background, in order to show them that that pathway truly is possible.  When we look at the Latino population, and I mentioned the importance of engaging parents, we’ve got to recognize just how important family is in that community, and look for varying ways to reach out to these parents.  That might mean ensuring that our materials are bilingual, for example,” Blackwell continued.

These are only some of the many ways in which Chevron, and companies like them, are looking at different avenues to ensure they are servicing a diverse population from very early on, and then continuing that support network as students move from K-12 into post-secondary school and (hopefully) continuing on into the workforce.

To learn more, visit the Chevron STEM Zone program website.