Despite a growing understanding of the importance of increasing representation of women and people of color in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professions, large gaps of access still exist. According to a recent 3M State of Science Index survey, 69% said underrepresented minorities don’t have equal opportunities to STEM education and careers. They point to obstacles like access (72%), affordability (47%) and bias and prejudice (37%) as significant barriers that are preventing adequate representation in the field. 87% of respondents believe more needs to be done to recruit a diverse workforce in STEM careers and 79% said science companies with a more diverse workforce would have a greater positive impact on society.
Gender and racial underrepresentation in STEM remains a significant challenge in the field. Black and Hispanic workers hold 9% and 8% of STEM positions, respectively, according to a 2021 study conducted by Pew Research – both of which fall behind their proportion of all workers. The study also notes that Black and Hispanic adults make up a lower share of STEM college graduates compared to their share of the population: Black students earned 7% of STEM bachelor’s degrees in 2018 while accounting for 10% of all bachelor’s degrees and Hispanic students earned 12% of STEM bachelor’s degrees that year while accounting for 15% of all bachelor’s degrees.
Similar to STEM representation among Black and Hispanic workers, women in STEM remain underrepresented both in education and the STEM workforce. Women earned 53% of STEM bachelor’s degrees in 2018, slightly under the 58% of all college degrees women earned that year. Workforce underrepresentation is particularly glaring in professions like engineering, computing and physical science jobs. Despite accounting for 47% of the overall workforce, women only make up 40% of physical science workers, 25% of computing workers and just 15% of engineering workers.
Robert F. Smith’s Commitment to Expanding Opportunities in STEM
Robert F. Smith, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, has prioritized increasing access to STEM professions for underrepresented minorities. Smith is the Founding Director and President of the Fund II Foundation, an organization with a mission to “preserve the African American experience, safeguard human rights, provide music education, preserve the environment while promoting the benefits of the outdoors, and sustain critical American values such as entrepreneurship.” The flagship program of the Fund II Foundation, internXL, is a paid internship program that connects students of color to internship opportunities. Smith said that internXL was created “to create pipelines and opportunities for minority students to work with many of the top tech companies in the world, providing experiences that many students never thought were accessible.” Currently, more than 200 companies – including institutions like Vista, Deloitte, Citi and AT&T – have signed up to participate in this program.
Smith has also emphasized increasing STEM programs at his alma mater, Cornell University, where he majored in chemical engineering. Smith, as well as the Fund II Foundation, have donated more than $50 million to expand scholarships, mentorships and enrichment programs for women and people of color who seek to pursue careers in STEM fields. Learn more about Smith’s work to increase diversity in STEM.