Minorities make small gains in science jobs

Hispanics catch up to blacks in science and technology, but both groups remain underrepresented in those fields, study says.

The proportion of minorities in science occupations has inched up over the past 10 years, but progress is slow-going, according to a new study released this week.

Hispanics have made the most progress, but remain among the most underrepresented minorities, said the Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology, a nonprofit in Washington, D.C., that conducted the study. Hispanics now account for about 5.3 percent of all U.S. science professionals, up from 3.7 percent 10 years ago. Yet they make up nearly 13 percent of the entire U.S. work force.

The picture for blacks is slightly better. They hold about 6.2 percent of the nation's science jobs while accounting for 10.7 percent of the work force. But their participation has fallen since 2000, when black participation edged above 7 percent.

The commission that authored the report, entitled "Sisyphus Revisited: Participation by Minorities in STEM Occupations, 1994-2004," called for renewed efforts to remedy the situation.

"The lack of significant progress by underrepresented minorities in STEM (scientific, technological, engineering and mathematical) occupations does not necessarily mean that efforts to fix the problem have been in vain," Richard Ellis of the Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology said in a statement.

"But it does show that there remains much room for improvement, and it underscores the need for full-scale evaluations on efforts to date to increase minority participation in STEM occupations," he said.

The group included a broad number of occupations in its definition of science and technology jobs, including computer programmers, engineers, chemists, biologists, technicians and college faculty. It did not include any medical occupations.

A highlight of the study is the fact that black women hold remarkably more science jobs in proportion to their minority group than other women. They account for more than a third--35.4 percent--of all black workers in science in technology. Not accounting for race, women represent just a quarter of the overall science work force.

On the flip-side, 10.6 percent of blacks employed in the sciences hold less prestigious jobs, such as lab technician--a greater proportion than any other race considered in the study. Just 4 percent hold managerial positions.

The commission used data from Bureau of Labor Statistics' population surveys for the study and received funding for the project from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

 

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