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STEM Equity

Diversity in Engineering Severely Lagging

While the racial and ethnic makeup of engineering students and professionals has shifted over the last 10 years, progress toward equity has been slow for black and Latinx engineers. In fact, at the current pace of progress, it will take 256 more years to achieve equity for black professionals in engineering if the rate of completion remains the same. That’s one of the findings of a study released this week focused on diversity in engineering, both in education and in the workplace.

The report, Mission Not Accomplished: Unequal Opportunities and Outcomes for Black and Latinx Engineers, from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, noted that between 2009 and 2019, the ethnic/racial makeup of students graduating with engineering degrees shifted considerably. But not for black students. Between 2009 and 2019, the percentage of white students graduating with bachelor’s degrees in engineering dropped 16 points, from 82% of the total to 66%. Te greatest gains went to Latinx students, whose percentage climbed from 3% to 13% of the total recipients of bachelor’s degrees in engineering. Asian/Pacific Islander representation grew two points, to 13%. But black students stayed the same at 4% from 2009 to 2019. (The remainder was in the “other” category, which wasn’t comparable between 2009 and 2019 as the definition of other changed. In 2019, “other” included multiracial students.)

According to the report: “Part of this slow progress is because of different rates of access to college. Despite black/African American and Latinx students steadily increasing their college-going rate over the past 50 years, they still lag behind white and Asian students. When black/African American and Latinx students go to college, they are less likely than white or Asian students to attend a college that has an engineering program. Also, black/African American and Latinx students who earn a bachelor’s degree are slightly less likely to earn a degree in engineering. In 1990, 3.5% and 5.9% of black/African American and Latinx bachelor degree completers, respectively, earned a degree in engineering. Today it is just 2.6% and 5%, respectively. For white students, the reverse is true: They are slightly more likely to earn an engineering degree (5.5% in 1990 compared to 6.3% today).”

Once in the workforce, the equity picture continues to be bleak. Black and Latinx engineers earn considerably less than white and Asian engineers. On average, Asian men earn the most in engineering, at $105,000. White men earn $101,000 on average. Latinx men earn $75,000. And black men earn $73,000.

Women make up only 16% of professional engineers, up just one percentage point from 2009. Among women, Asians are the highest paid by far, at $89,000. White women earn $79,000. Black women fare better in the engineer field than black men, earning $75,000 on average. Latinx women earn just $55,000 on average.

The average salary for all men in engineering is $98,000. The average for women is $79,000.

The full report, Mission Not Accomplished: Unequal Opportunities and Outcomes for Black and Latinx Engineers, along with an interactive summary and a PDF executive summary, are freely available on the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce site.

About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at .

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