NACME BLOG

A Status Report on Minorities in Engineering

CornerOffice

October 4, 2016

The founding vision of NACME in 1974 was the achievement of parity in the engineering workforce for African Americans, American Indians, and Latinos, the three groups that have been underrepresented historically in the profession. The vision of today’s NACME remains an engineering workforce that looks like America. We are exceedingly proud of the key role NACME has played in the National Minority Engineering Effort during the past 42-years, as measured by the dramatic increase in the number of baccalaureate degrees in engineering awarded to underrepresented minority (URM) students today, over the number of graduates at the time of our founding, but the goal of parity remains elusive.

The number of underrepresented minority (URM) baccalaureate degree recipients in engineering rose to 12,903 in 2014, a 10 percent increase from the prior year. This number represents 13.7 percent of the total number of engineering degrees conferred that year (93,950).  The growth was mainly concentrated with the Latino population, who earned 8,984 baccalaureate degrees, while African Americans earned 3,599, and American Indian/Alaska Natives earned 320.

Despite these gains, more work is needed to diversify the engineering pathway. Even though African Americans constituted 14.8 percent of the college-age population (18 to 24 years old), they earned only 3.8 percent of engineering degrees. American Indian/Alaska Natives constituted 0.9 percent of the college-age population, yet earned only 0.3 percent of engineering degrees. Although they experienced the highest gains, Latinos were still markedly underrepresented in this discipline, earning 9.6 percent of engineering degrees despite making up 21.4 percent of the college-age population.

These trends help to explain the paucity of diversity in the engineering workforce and academia. In 2013, URMs constituted 12.1 percent of employed engineers, which paled in comparison to their representation in the overall population (31.5 percent). They also constituted only 6.6 percent of engineering faculty, which continued a troubling trend of minute minority representation in academic settings. Minority youth pursuing engineering degrees lack mentors from similar backgrounds who can encourage and support them in their journey.  

The U.S. population is becoming more diverse each year.  By 2050, URMs will represent over 40 percent of the population, and there will be no majority race.  The demand for qualified STEM professionals is high, but the supply of STEM workers to fill these positions is at risk if underrepresented groups are not engaged in these fields.  While we can all take great satisfaction in the role that NACME has played in moving the needle for URMs, more work and greater support is needed to achieve our mission of creating a STEM workforce that looks like America.

For more than four decades, NACME has attempted to send a clear and unambiguous message that must be understood and acted upon if this nation is to retain its position of leadership in STEM and keep its competitive edge in the global marketplace of ideas and products.

That message is this: The solution to America’s competitiveness problem is to activate the hidden workforce of young men and women who have traditionally been underrepresented in STEM careers—African Americans, American Indians, and Latinos.

 

 

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