Bayer Report: Science and Tech CEOs Mean Well, But Miss Diverse Opportunities

May 18, 2006
Bayer’s new findings suggest C-level executives may have the answer to the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) workforce problem right under their noses, but don’t see it.

By Paul Thomas, Managing Editor

CEOs and other C-level executives from leading science and technology companies mean well when it comes to encouraging diversity within their companies, but don’t quite know how to go about it, says the latest Bayer Facts of Science Education survey. CEOs express great enthusiasm for diversity in the workplace, and frustration over their inability to hire more women and minorities, says Dr. Mae Jemison, CEO of BioSentient, Inc. and the country’s first African-American female astronaut. Yet they often don’t see the available pool of women and minorities as a solution to the lack of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) talent in the workforce.

Like others, the CEOs don’t always picture women and minorities as tomorrow’s leading scientists. “They are as influenced by the images of who scientists are as the rest of society,” says Jemison, who is also the national spokesperson for Bayer’s Making Science Make Sense (MSMS) program. One reason, she notes, is that CEOs reflect the demographics of employees in STEM fields. “Four out of five of them are males, and four out of five are white,” she notes.

The study, detailed in "The Bayer Facts of Science Education XII: CEOs on STEM Diversity: The Need, The Seed, The Feed", has its encouraging aspects as well. (For the full 39-page report (a 427 KB PDF), click the “Download Now” button below.) CEOs widely believe that it is important for their companies to support the educational development of all future STEM professionals, and believe that students must have direct contact with working scientists and engineers to develop interest in such careers, notes Sarah Toulouse, Bayer senior communications representative, who oversees the MSMS program. Bayer, she notes, sees that corporate commitment as essential to maintaining the company’s long-term viability.

Among other interesting data compiled by Bayer:

    • CEOs gave an average grade of “C-“ to the U.S. K-12 educational system for how it engages and nurtures girls and minorities to pursue STEM careers.
    • 56% believe U.S. colleges and universities are adequately preparing students for the STEM workplace.
    • 96 percent of CEOs say it is important or very important for girls and minorities to get science and math education beginning in elementary school.
    • 83 percent believe STEM companies must play a role in helping women and minorities to succeed in science and engineering fields.
  • Approximately one-third say that their companies and/or employees engage in programs to do so.

The report also suggests that school curricula must change, that science should become the fourth “R” in young people’s K-12 experience. Parents of course have an integral role as well, and have to “awaken their kids’ natural curiosity,” Jemison says.

And schools, corporations, parents and the media as well must work together to change the stereotype of scientists as simply geeks and nerds. “If we started to have different images, it would make more of a difference” in encouraging young people to pursue STEM careers — which, by the way, can be lucrative, Jemison and Toulouse note.

For her part, Jemison runs The Earth We Share, educational camps and programs designed to enhance the science literacy and critical thinking of young people and adults ( Bayer continues to produce annual reports on the subject of STEM employment, seeking input from different stakeholders year to year. Bayer will host a conference this fall in Washington, D.C. on corporate best practices related to STEM and diversity.