Throughout a child’s life, role models serve as important figures that can shape behaviors, beliefs and choices. It’s for this reason that as we all work to diversify the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields, caregivers and educators alike must do their part to introduce children to STEM role models from a wide range of backgrounds to both inspire them and help them to see that these disciplines are for everyone.
Inspiring Young Innovators
A groundbreaking study from Opportunity Insights, a research institution based at Harvard University, supports this, finding that exposure to innovation greatly increases the likelihood that children will innovate as they grow older.
“If girls were exposed to female inventors during childhood at the same rate that boys are to male inventors, the gender gap in innovation would fall by half,” said the researchers.
At the National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF), we too believe in the importance of STEM diversity, and throughout our nearly 50-year history, have celebrated the accomplishments of innovators who come from all walks of life. Our Inductees demonstrate that not only can anyone invent, but that truly great ideas can (and do) come from anywhere.
Supporting STEM Representation
For minority and underrepresented groups especially, identifying relatable STEM role models is essential and has the power to break down harmful stereotypes regarding who can pursue and succeed in a STEM career.
NIHF Inductee Carolyn Bertozzi, responsible for inventing the field of biorthogonal chemistry, points out that tearing down gender, ethnic and racial stereotypes within STEM disciplines benefits everyone.
“Frequently I hear people say to me, ‘Oh, you must be such a great role model for the women in your lab,’” Bertozzi said in an interview with NIHF. “While that might be true, I think it’s actually more important and also impactful that I might be a role model for the men in my lab.”
Bertozzi makes an essential point. Children should be exposed to role models who look, sound or learn like them to help them gain confidence in their own ideas, abilities and potential. They should also be exposed to role models who are different from them, so that they respect the ideas, abilities and potential of others.
To support greater representation and inclusion in STEM, we must guide young innovators to identify and embrace more diverse role models, creating healthier and more supportive environments for all.
How Do You Promote the Importance of Diversity in STEM?
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For more ideas and support in encouraging healthy perspectives, promoting greater inclusivity in learning environments, and guiding our next generation of creators, innovators and leaders, we invite you to visit our blog.