Not enough Black students are being exposed to STEM careers

A substantial number of Black students have the aptitude but not the access to in-demand STEM and CTE fields. This exposure gap is even wider for Black females, according to the “2024 Black Students and STEM Report” from curriculum provider YouScience and the nonprofit Black Girls Do STEM.

Here are the sizes of the exposure gaps in major STEM and career disciplines:

  • Advanced manufacturing: 75%
  • Health science: 57%
  • Finance: 56%
  • Architecture and construction: 53%
  • Computers and technology: 51%

“The solution to this lies within redefining education for Black students through access to identity-affirming informal learning environments; so they understand the full scope of their aptitudes, and also the full scope of what careers are possible,” said Cynthia Chapple, founder and CEO of Black Girls Do STEM.

What’s an exposure gap?

As of 2021, just 9% of the STEM workforce was Black. Still, that’s an increase from 7% a decade earlier, the report points out.

The difference between students’ aptitudes (as demonstrated on assessments) and their expressed interests is how the organizations behind the study calculate exposure gaps. The gaps also identify which fields a student hasn’t had the opportunity to explore—particularly the careers that might be a good fit.

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For Black female students, the gaps between aptitude and interest are even more substantial:

  • Advanced manufacturing: 88%
  • Computers and technology: 73%
  • Architecture and construction: 72%

Let’s close the STEM divide

Solving the problem starts with administrators using aptitudes to create more personalized career pathways for Black students. Once students’ aptitudes are identified, educators should engage with families to map out STEM and CTE courses that lead to industry certifications. Students are more likely to follow their aptitudes when they have family support.

These pathways should also be interdisciplinary and career-connected, comprising work-based learning, internships and

Black Girls Do STEM, for instance, is a seven-year pathway program that exposes students to STEM fields to stimulate their interests in various career fields. The nonprofit’s two programs, which include a Saturday academy, include mentoring, SAT/ACT preparation, college tours and internships and externships, among other components.

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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