Daily CSR
Daily CSR

Daily CSR
Daily news about corporate social responsibility, ethics and sustainability

Historically Black Colleges and Universities can play pivotal role in STEM


Historically Black Colleges and Universities can play pivotal role in STEM
St. Elmo Brady may not be a household name for all Americans, but his impact in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), particularly in chemistry, lives on. Brady, who was born in 1884, was the first African American to receive a Ph.D. in chemistry. What happened next, however, would define his legacy. He chose academia over private industry and has spent his career developing chemistry and STEM programs at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). His influence can still be felt at Tuskegee University, Howard University, Fisk University, and Tougaloo College.

As we commemorate Black History Month, St. Elmo Brady's career serves as a reminder that we have a responsibility not only to honor our forefathers, but also to carry on their work for future generations.

Despite the fact that STEM industries have come a long way thanks to luminaries such as Brady, Black Americans continue to be underrepresented in the STEM workforce. Black workers make up only 9% of the total STEM workforce in the United States. Drilling down further into the data reveals even more disparities in specific occupations. Only 8% of chemists, 6% of life science jobs, and 5% of engineering jobs are held by African Americans. Unfortunately, Hispanics and women face a similar fate.

As a Black leader in the chemistry industry, I want to be clear that addressing this disparity is about ensuring that our businesses and industries continue to grow and thrive. When we bring people from different backgrounds together, we benefit from different perspectives, life experiences, and ideas that can lead to new discoveries and innovations and help us solve the world's most pressing problems. The number of STEM job opportunities is expected to increase by one million between 2020 and 2030. STEM-related industries will struggle to meet those workforce demands unless they cultivate a larger, more diverse talent pool.

We understand the problem, but what is the solution?

The first step is to address the root of the problem, which is a lack of access to education, as St. Elmo Brady recognized a century ago.

According to the Pew Research Center, both Black and Hispanic adults are less likely than other degree fields to earn STEM degrees. To change this, we as an industry and as a society must make strategic investments in early education to spark interest in science and develop future STEM talent in underserved, under-resourced, and overlooked communities.

Chemours accomplishes this through programs such as the Chemours Future of Engineering, Science, Trades, and Technology (ChemFEST) School Partnership Program. We recently broke ground on The Chemours STEM Hub at Eastside Charter School, a community STEM hub in collaboration with Eastside Charter, a K-8 school in Wilmington, Delaware, where we have our headquarters. This investment is about more than just the physical structure. It's about giving our students in underserved and underserved communities hands-on experiences that will spark a passion for STEM that would otherwise go dormant.

We can help inspire students from diverse backgrounds to see a future with a wider range of opportunities and pursue a STEM education in college and, ultimately, a career in STEM by increasing early access to the sciences, contributing to a pipeline of the best, brightest, and most diverse talent.

Importantly, a commitment to a diverse workforce does not stop at the front door of a laboratory, building, or manufacturing facility. It is incumbent on our leaders to foster inclusive and equal workplace environments in which everyone is treated with dignity regardless of race, culture, religion, creed, or sexual orientation.

This emphasizes the significance of fostering a culture of holistic safety, which includes emotional and psychological health, as well as Employee Resource Groups, which promote employee connectivity and mutual understanding. These workplace aspects are critical for attracting and retaining highly capable, diverse talent and assisting them in reaching their full potential. They also foster an environment in which everyone is free to be themselves, which benefits both individuals and businesses (both STEM-related and otherwise).

Our country has come a long way towards increasing diversity in STEM fields, but we still have a long way to go. That sometimes means looking to the past for guidance and inspiration.

Today, students walking around campus at Fisk University, an HBCU in Nashville, TN, may come across Talley-Brady Hall, which honors the contributions of St. Elmo Brady and fellow chemistry professor Thomas Talley. Similar stories of Black visionaries in chemistry, engineering, medicine, mathematics, and other STEM fields can be found throughout US history and into the present day. They changed the world with their innovative work and struggle to break down barriers for those who came after them. We can honour these trailblazers during Black History Month and beyond by continuing their work to inspire a more diverse and inclusive future for the next generation of leaders, innovators, and problem solvers.