A new online magazine, Re.engineer, launched this year with a mission to inspire Black and other students of color to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and provide resources to those who have already started their journey. The digital publication describes itself as an inclusive community of STEM professionals that collaborates, shares and leverages value-added solutions and innovations. Award-winning engineering leader Sadrach Stephens founded Re.engineer to create a bridge between advanced and junior level professionals, one that enables them to leverage solutions, techniques, innovation, technology and overall leadership perspectives.
How to Fight the Lack of Diversity in STEM
STEM positions typically offer significantly higher salaries and more professional stability than the national average, and the demand for STEM-educated workers is growing rapidly. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of occupations in the STEM field are expected to grow by 8% by 2029, more than twice the rate of 3.7% for total expected job growth for all occupations.
However, even though the demand for workers with a STEM education is increasing, the number of Black students pursuing this field is decreasing. The National Center for Science and Engineering reports that the number of engineering degrees awarded to Black students fell from 5.2% in 2000 to 3.9% in 2016. Pew Research found at Black workers in STEM are underrepresented, only making up 9% of the workforce, while 69% are white.
According to The Hechinger Report, the downward trend in Black and students of color pursuing STEM degrees can be attributed to a lack of STEM resources for students of color in grade school, discrimination biases, bans on race-based affirmative action and a lack of diverse mentors. Many students and workers of color in STEM fields also often report experiencing imposter syndrome, feeling out of place and unwelcome in classes or in the workplace, making it difficult to thrive in their careers.
Encouraging Students of Color to Pursue STEM
Re.engineer was developed to provide solutions to some of the obstacles that impede the success of marginalized groups in STEM. Its digital platform aims to connect students and young professionals with experienced STEM professionals, offering a variety of free career development resources including group mentoring and webinar. The quarterly publication includes both articles and videos on STEM-related content, as well as inspiring interviews with leaders of color in the industry.
Re.engineer founder Sadrach Stephens believes there needs to be more examples of the possibilities for Black individuals, and when asked why he started the company, Stephens said, “I wanted to create a platform that highlights Black excellence in STEM while also providing valuable resources for the next generation of professionals.”
Allowing students to earn an education without the burden of student loans is another solution to inspire students of color to pursue STEM. Philanthropist Robert F. Smith donated $50 million to fund Student Freedom Initiative, a nonprofit that offers flexible, lower-risk alternatives to high-interest private student loans to college seniors and juniors studying STEM at its first cohort of 11 historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
The $50 million personal donation to Student Freedom Initiative matched a previous$50 million donation from Fund II Foundation, another organization dedicated to supporting students of color in STEM. Fund II Foundation, of which Smith is the founding director and President, facilitates the growth of students to become thriving professionals and entrepreneurs. Its internXL program matches students with professionals, companies and internships, giving them the opportunity to jumpstart their careers in STEM.
Learn more about how Student Freedom Initiative is providing millions for HBCUs and Black students.