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Diversity in STEM

How Exposure to Innovation Impacts Future Success

In late 2017 researchers from Opportunity Insights, a research institute led by Harvard faculty, published a groundbreaking report identifying the primary factors that determine who becomes an inventor in America.

One of their key findings confirmed what we at the National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF) have believed for some time: early exposure to innovation and invention greatly increases the likelihood children will become innovators themselves!

This exposure is not only predictive of whether a child will become an inventor, but also of what kind of invention they will go on to create. For example, children whose parents invented a new design for a lightbulb are more likely to invent something related to lightbulbs themselves. This power of exposure is also influential across gender, and researchers found that women are more likely to invent if they grew up in an area with many women inventors. These findings are important because current inventor demographic levels have significant room to improve.

Another Key Finding: There Are Large Disparities in Innovation Rates by Socioeconomic Class, Race and Gender

Using a data set of over 1 million inventors in the United States, Opportunity Insights researchers found that children whose parents are in the top 1 percent of the income distribution are ten times more likely to become inventors than children who have parents that make a below average income. Additionally, white children are three times more likely to become inventors than African-American children, and only 18 percent of patent inventors are woman. At current rates, the researchers found that it would take 118 years to reach gender parity.

Learn More About How NIHF Introduces Children to Innovation At a Young Age

However, the good news is that exposure to inspirational STEM role models can even the innovative playing field, and transcend factors including wealth, race and gender.

At NIHF, we understand how impactful it can be for students to have an innovative role model they can look up to. By introducing children to a diverse range of inventors who have significantly impacted our world, we empower them to dream big and aspire to make lasting improvements to society. For children whose race or gender is currently underrepresented in the STEM industry, NIHF provides relatable STEM role models that can help them to see themselves as innovators while effectively eliminating the stereotypes that may otherwise deter them from pursuing a STEM career.

By integrating lessons inspired by our world-changing Inductees, our education programs encourage students to explore STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) topics on their own terms, motivating them to discover solutions to complex problems.

To learn more about how exposure to innovation helps to maintain a child’s interest in STEM subjects, we invite you to read our white paper, How Exposure to Innovation Closes the Gender Gap in STEM Fields.

For more information about all our education programs, please visit our website.

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