There are still many “Hidden Figures” in the world of technology today. According to a new study, not much has changed since the 1960s era of NASA’s three “human computers,” Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson
“Ignored Potential: A Collaborative Road Map for Increasing African-American Women in Engineering” is a newly released white paper commissioned by the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and the Women in Engineering ProActive Network (WEPAN) which found only “26.3 percent of engineering bachelor’s degrees awarded to African Americans in 2011 went to women, despite the fact that African-American women outnumber African-American men nearly two to one as students in institutions of higher education,” reported The Charleston Chronicle.
“I think the timing is right to release this document,” said NSBE 2013–15 national chair Sossena Wood. “Hollywood has opened the minds of many by releasing ‘Hidden Figures.’ Many leave the movie wondering how can we get more women of color to go into STEM, and I believe this white paper offers an excellent solution.”
Added Trina Fletcher, director of Pre-College Programs for NSBE who is a doctoral candidate in engineering education at Purdue and a contributing author of the “Ignored Potential” report, “This white paper will allow those entities to take advantage of the potential African-American girls and women have as it relates to engineering and other areas of STEM. As we continue to become increasingly diverse as a nation, it is in our best interest to make the inclusion of groups that have historically been excluded a priority. This is especially true for women of the African diaspora, one of the most untapped human resources on this planet. I truly believe ‘Ignored Potential’ will help make that happen.”
The NSBE has a goal of leading the U.S. to graduate 10,000 Black engineers annually with bachelor’s degrees by 2025. Some strategies for reaching that figure include mentoring, diversity and inclusion training, targeted programming within professional organizations, publicized outreach, and better hiring efforts.
“To get to our 2025 goal, we must continue to challenge prevailing norms and remove barriers to ensure all groups can equally participate in and contribute to the burgeoning fields of engineering,” said NSBE Executive Director Karl W. Reid, Ed.D. “This white paper provides a roadmap to get us there.”