Students 2 Science, Inc. (S2S), a 10-year-old nonprofit organization whose mission is to inspire, motivate and educate students from underserved communities to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, recently held a virtual salon on how to prepare a diversified workforce for STEM careers.
The consensus from five S2S panelists, who are also corporate volunteers at the organization, is to attract and inspire students at an early age and build their STEM skills throughout their schooling.
Paul Winslow, president of S2S, opened the Salon by explaining that 51% of K-12 students live in families where the average income is less that $25,000; the majority of which are people of color. “If we are going to achieve a diversified workforce with equity and prosperity for all, we cannot ignore these students,” he said.
Panelist Linda Armstrong, global head, respiratory development unit, Novartis, commented that “as a black woman in the STEM field, I was disappointed to see how little my daughters’ schools emphasized STEM as an area that was achievable and attractive to them. … I think our educational system and industry must work together to encourage students, give them the skills they need, and expose them to others who have careers in STEM fields to show them how wonderful and dynamic those careers are.”
On the benefits of a diverse workforce, Clint Wallace, senior vice president human resources, North America, for Sanofi, commented, “If we don’t cultivate talent from underserved communities, our companies are going to be missing out on the power of difference, and our country will miss out on a truly valuable asset.”
Sydney Klein, chief information security officer and vice president of cybersecurity at Bristol Myers Squibb, added, “Creating a diverse and inclusive workforce is the right thing to do, but we also see the immense value from it,” she said, adding that a diverse and inclusive workforce is 20 times more likely to be engaged, leads to 40% more collaboration, and 80% more innovation. “This all leads to better outcomes for businesses. For our company, it leads to better outcomes for patients,” she said.
Dana Cunningham, director, global project and alliance management at Merck, commented, “Investing in young students may not impact a company directly or immediately, but in the long term, it will give them a greater talent pool from which to hire a diverse workforce.”
Since its founding, S2S has helped 87,000 students and has collaborated with thousands of teachers and engineers. It has two, 10,000-square-foot Technology Centers in Newark and East Hanover that house commercial laboratory equipment where students, with the help of corporate volunteers, learn about wet chemistry, organic chemistry, chromatography, spectroscopy, biology, botany, biotechnology, ecology and environmental science.
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