Why STEM ‘Diversity’? Just Because

Most reports, studies, proposals, etc., calling for more “diversity” — whether of faculties, students, coaches, whatever — either fail to provide any justification for the discrimination necessary to increase it or fall flat, sometimes fatuously, when they do attempt to provide a justification.

In reviewing a typical one, for example, MIT’s Report on The Initiative For Faculty Race And Diversity, I quoted from its various rationales and concluded, “In other words, ‘diversity’ is ‘core’ to MIT’s excellence because it is ‘intrinsic,’ because ‘one must … be inclusive,’ because it is ‘key,’ and because insufficient diversification would ‘constrain ourselves and limit our success.’ In other words, well, just because.”

That criticism, however, cannot be leveled against “Minority Ph.D.‘s Find Career Success in STEM,” an argument in the Chronicle of Higher Education for more STEM diversity by Frances M. Leslie (not Francis, as given in the Chronicle), which offers a commendably concrete and specific justification for producing more minority STEM graduates. Professor Leslie — dean of the Graduate Division and a professor of pharma­cology, and of anatomy and neurobiology, in the School of Medicine at the University of California at Irvine — is clearly a person of many talents, but her commendably concrete justification for producing more minority STEM Ph.D.’s suggests she could be equally successful as a stand-up comic or satire writer for The Onion.

“First of all,” she notes the “disparity” of minorities receiving “only 7.25 percent of doctorate degrees” in STEM fields, “far below their 30 percent representation in the general population.” This “disparity” matters, she claims, because the “U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that recipients of Ph.D.s and professional degrees have the lowest unemployment rate and highest full-time earnings in the country.” Then comes her justification for striving to make STEM Ph.D.’s demographically representative, a justification that is refreshingly free of “diversity” cant and camouflage:

So the dearth of underrepresented minorities with Ph.D.’s in STEM not only represents a substantial financial inequity but also reduces their potential impact on the nation’s economic strength.

Given these findings, it seems clear that universities should make a substantial effort to support underrepresented minority students in STEM graduate education.

STEM diversity, in short, is good not only for the diverse, who are enabled to make more money, but because of the positive impact their arguably higher earnings in STEM than in the occupations they would otherwise be pursuing has on the GNP.

In fact, even this slim reed of an argument is not persuasive. The fact that STEM Ph.D.’s may have the lowest unemployment and highest earnings does not mean that individuals who could have become STEM Ph.D.’s but did not would predictably make less money in other fields.

No wonder most arguments for “diversity” tend to avoid trying to specify its benefits.






3 thoughts on “Why STEM ‘Diversity’? Just Because

  1. I was looking at “the IQ curve” of ALL “measured” folk.
    Would Professor Leslie REALLY have us determine “separate but equal” curves by minority “status” or percentile?
    Hmmm….sounds like a good exercise for STEM PhD folk.
    Maybe even otherwise unoccupied NASA employees?
    OT. SOMEBODYS “submit comment” window seems to be missing at their personal blog. Mindful that it MAY just be an offense by me, (OR my ‘puter) no, I do NOT want to load a “special” Microsoft “app” to ask about it via more appropriate channels.

  2. This subject is political dynamitebecause the 800 lb gorilla is what minorities?I can’t speak for all programs (I dropped out of my Ph D) but med schools have struggled with this for,well,generations.In a Ph d/engineering program it’s much harder to get a degree since you’re so much more visible
    Now,is the reason for poor African american performance cultural or genetic?
    What can be done to alter it?
    I wish I knew

  3. There are plenty of minorities in STEM programs: for example Jews and people of Korean, Chinese, and Indian ancestry.

    I guess these Minorities aren’t the right color minorities to make progressives happy.

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