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Here's how P&G plans to get more underrepresented minorities into STEM jobs


Here's how P&G plans to get more underrepresented minorities into STEM jobs

Jun 4, 2015, 10:08am EDT UPDATED: Jun 5, 2015, 6:17am EDT
 
 
Tatum Hunter
Courier Intern- Cincinnati Business Courier

Procter & Gamble Co. is bringing the underrepresentation of minorities in high-tech industries to the forefront of a national conversation.

The Cincinnati-based consumer goods manufacturer (NYSE: PG) and the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME) partnered to host a panel discussion on strategies to combat the underrepresentation of certain minority groups in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields on Wednesday.

The discussion, held at P&G’s downtown headquarters, featured a panel of seven experts, two of them current or former P&G leaders, as well as keynote speaker and NACME president Dr. Irving McPhail.

The conversation focused on a big problem facing corporate America: In a competitive global market where technology and innovation are key, the demand for STEM jobs is steadily rising, but supply is not keeping up. America needs students to choose STEM careers, and there is much untapped talent among black, Native American and Latino students who often do not have equal access to STEM-promoting programs.

For P&G, recruiting a skilled and diverse workforce is paramount. P&G senior vice president of research and design William Gipson said in addition being a world leader in marketing and production, the company is a leader in innovation.

“The reason we innovate is the breadth of the backgrounds of the scientists and engineers we work with,” Gipson said.

This commitment to diversity is not reflected in the makeup of STEM jobs nationwide. Ninety percent of engineering positions in 2014 were held by white workers, according to McPhail.

P&G vice president of research and design Lourdes Albacarys said although P&G aims to hire a workforce that is representative of a diverse consumer base, the number of black and Hispanic graduates for hire gets smaller every year.

Meanwhile, STEM positions in the region are growing at twice the rate of other positions. Eighty percent of the region's jobs in the next 10 years will require math and science skills.

To combat this problem, P&G invests in initiatives like the company’s Resident Scholar program that familiarize students with STEM career options and connect them with mentors.

“The more we can demystify these careers for the students, the more powerful that connection (to STEM) is,” said Dr. Andrea Bowens-Jones, director of the Resident Scholar program and P&G research and design section head.

Albacarys encouraged parents to get involved as well by enouraging their children to choose STEM-based electives instead of arts electives like choir.

“If we don’t encourage them, they may choose the easier option and never see how much fun (STEM education) can be,” she said.

Panelist Robert Setlock took a slightly different approach. Setlock is the director of Miami University’s Project High Flight, a program that allows students of diverse backgrounds to come together and think creatively about scientific problems.

“I think the real problem is that divergent thinking is not really appreciated or valued,” he said. “The creative aspect of the human soul is what drives everything. If you try too hard to conform to any system, that’s going to compromise your soul.”

 

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