Science and technology are potent agents of positive change, benefitting nearly every realm of human endeavor. The United States honors STEM’s highest achievers with the National Medal of Science and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. From inventing digital photography to exploring dark matter physics, the NMS and NMTI Laureates’ many and varied accomplishments have shaped our understanding of the world and what lies beyond.
For the past thirty years, our foundation has served as a steward of this community: honoring them as they received their presidential medals and increasing public appreciation for all they have contributed to society. Their impact cannot be overstated. They stand shoulder to shoulder with the Nobel Laureates as a collection of the world’s greatest minds in science and technology.
We look to this group as role models for the next generation of scientists and technologists. However, young students, especially those from underrepresented groups, do not always see themselves reflected back at the highest levels of STEM.
Seven hundred thirty-three medals have been awarded to individuals, teams, and companies since 1962; but only sixty-one of these awards have gone to women and fewer than forty have gone to people of color.
This issue is not unique to this community. But as a steward and advocate for this group, we ask ourselves, “how can we help bring about healthy change?”
We envision a world in which the diversity of the American society is reflected in the recipients of all prestigious STEM honors, including future Laureate classes of the National Medal of Science and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. To make that dream a reality, we must turn our gaze to one of the most vulnerable parts of the STEM pipeline: an undergraduate’s journey from enrollment to graduation with a STEM degree. The high attrition rate of first-year STEM students, especially those from underrepresented groups, perpetuates a representation problem in collegiate and post-collegiate communities. We believe that intervention at this point in a student’s journey is critical. Any young person who dreams of being a scientist or inventor should receive the education, mentoring, and inspiration to help that dream bear fruit. We can do more to provide the support they need during this time.
Before we see a new class of Laureates that represents both the highest levels of science and technology and reflects our diverse society, we must build a STEM ecosystem that supports all who wish to endeavor there. With our Unscripted Series, inSTEM mentoring program, Experts Connect Program, and Virtual STEM Spotlights, we are committed to creating these types of supportive STEM communities.
We ask you to join us as we work to realize our vision. Together we can:
- Lower the STEM attrition rate among college students from underrepresented groups
- Give students and teachers the tools they need to create more inclusive STEM communities on campuses across the country
- Build an alliance across academia, government, industry, and nonprofit sectors to give students access to a broader, more comprehensive support network
- Elevate voices that have historically been left out of the conversation so that more students can visualize their own successful career in STEM
- Honor STEM’s high achievers by including them in the work of building equitable communities
By adding your name, you pledge to take actions big and small to strengthen your STEM community. This work begins in classrooms, labs, and offices around the country where leaders like you make inclusion a priority. Thank you for joining us!