The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) has launched a new Action Collaborative on Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech along with 35 other institutions representing higher education, national laboratories, and government, including The University of New Mexico.

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Through the action collaborative, organizations will work together to improve pathways in tech education and participation in the tech workforce for women who identify as African American, Black, Hispanic, Latina, Native American, Asian American, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander. The effort will be guided by the National Academies’ report Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech, which provides evidence-based findings and recommendations for increasing recruitment, retention, and advancement of women of color in tech fields.

“For UNM this work is mission central: inclusive excellence is one of the goals of UNM 2040, and the relative scarcity of women of color in stem-related fields, even at UNM where minoritized persons are the majority, poses a challenge that UNM is well positioned to meet,” said Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs James Holloway, who will lead UNM’s effort and assemble an internal team to work with the National Action Collaborative to identify opportunities to engage more women of color in science and technology fields. 

While women of color currently make up 39 percent of the female population in the United States, they earn less than 10 percent of bachelor’s degrees and less than five percent of doctorates awarded in computing. Women of color also remain underrepresented in the tech workforce, and the numbers of women from some racial and ethnic groups have even declined. Black women hold three percent of tech jobs, Latinas hold one percent, and Native American/Alaskan Native and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander women have 0.3 percent.

The action collaborative will offer a platform for exchanging ideas and promising practices, taking an intersectional approach that recognizes the multifaceted nature of barriers shaped by race, gender, and other factors.

“Women of color face amplified barriers and biases that can impede their progress and limit their opportunities in STEM and tech,” said Gilda Barabino, chair of the National Academies’ Committee on Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine and president of the Olin College of Engineering. “Through this effort, we will work together to dismantle these barriers and foster an environment where every woman, regardless of her background, has the chance to thrive and contribute to cutting-edge developments in science and technology.”

UNM’s involvement in the Action Collaborative is a natural fit given the findings from the release of the National Academies study on the Trajectories of Women of Color in Tech, which emphasized the importance of the intersection of gender and race in addressing barriers to success, an area UNM is already emphasizing. Additional factors include the provost’s participation in brainstorming activities with the National Academy of Inventors on the under-representation of women, especially minority women, as patent holders; former UNM Regent Sandra Begay’s advocacy and insights into the untapped talent pool that women of color represent for science and technology fields; UNM’s participation in the NIH FIRST program to diversify STEM faculty, and; its participation as a founding member of the Alliance of Hispanic Serving Research Universities which aims to increase the representation of Hispanic faculty in fields in which they are missing, especially STEM.

“As part of this collaborative, we will determine where we want to focus our efforts within the wider national effort, and based on that we will develop appropriate metrics to measure our progress,” said Holloway.

Institutions interested in joining or learning more about the Action Collaborative can contact Jeena Thomas, director of the Action Collaborative, at “Changing the culture, climate, norms, and values across the tech ecosystem requires cross-sector engagement and participation,” said Thomas. “With this in mind, we hope more higher education, industry, national laboratories, government, and other organizations join us on this journey.”

“This initiative will require dedication and collaboration from all of us,” said National Academy of Sciences President Marcia McNutt. “We are committed to facilitating research, collaboration, and action that reflect the representation and lived experiences of women of color in hopes of driving substantial change in the tech and engineering ecosystem.”

More information can be found on the Action Collaborative’s website.

The National Academies are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, engineering, and medicine. They operate under an 1863 congressional charter to the National Academy of Sciences, signed by President Lincoln.

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