Parents of Under-Represented Students in Science and Engineering Speak Out on Issue...

Parents of Under-Represented Students in Science and Engineering Speak Out on Issue in New National Survey

Say Girls, African-American, Native American and Hispanic American Students Have the Right Stuff for Success


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Pittsburgh, PA–(HISPANIC
PR WIRE – US Newswire)–May 24, 2005–Despite the fact that women, African-Americans,
Native Americans and Hispanic Americans have long been under-represented in science
and engineering (S&E) in the United States, a new survey shows parents of
these students are overwhelmingly confident that their children – both boys
and girls – have what it takes to succeed in these subjects in school and
afterward in the workplace.

Parents see science and
technology as important engines driving the nation’s economy and national
security and view science and engineering careers as “desirable” and
“realistic” for both their sons and daughters. At the same time, parents
believe the science and engineering communities need to do a better job of making
today’s students more aware of the wide range of job opportunities available
to them in these fields.

When it comes to the long-standing
gender and minority inequities in these fields, many parents surveyed say they
are aware of such inequities and more than half say they are concerned about
them. However, unlike the National Science Board (NSB), the governing board
of the National Science Foundation, significant numbers of parents do not see
any potential danger this inequity may pose for the United States and its ability
to retain its global leadership position in science and technology.

These are among the key
findings in the newest national science education/science literacy survey commissioned
by Bayer Corporation as part of its Making Science Make Sense (R) (MSMS) program.
This year’s survey examines the issue of under-representation of women,
African-Americans, Native Americans and Hispanic Americans in science and engineering
fields from their parents’ point of view.

The Bayer Facts of Science
Education XI: American Parents Speak Out About Their Children and Science polled
1,000 American parents who have at least one boy and one girl between the ages
of 5 and 18 living at home. In addition, in order to include under-represented
minorities, interviews with African-American, Native American and Hispanic American
parents who fit the same profile were added until each of these groups contained
250 completed surveys. A total of 1,500 surveys were conducted in March and
April 2005.

Parents Positive About Girls
and Boys and Science

Overall, the survey found
that parents across the board think both their sons and daughters are potential
winners when it comes to science and math. Many report their sons (88 percent)
and daughters (85 percent) are interested in science, math or engineering. Six
in 10 (63 percent) parents report their sons have already expressed an interest
in continuing to study or have a career in these fields, while four in 10 (42
percent) report their daughters have expressed such an interest.

They’re interested,
but can they succeed? Yes, say parents. Almost all parents (96 percent sons;
95 percent daughters) are confident that their sons and daughters have the ability
to succeed in these subjects in school, with nearly three-fourths (75 percent
sons; 73 percent daughters) feeling “very confident.” In addition,
nearly all of the parents (92 percent sons; 90 percent daughters) are confident
that their children have the ability to succeed in S&E careers, with half
or more saying they are “very confident” (69 percent sons; 57 percent
daughters).

Virtually all parents see
these careers as desirable for their sons (91 percent) and their daughters (86
percent). And, upon learning that many jobs in these fields do not require advanced
degrees beyond a bachelor’s, most parents (88 percent) believe these fields
present realistic job opportunities for their children. However, almost all
parents across the board (88 percent) believe the S&E communities need to
do a better job telling today’s students about these job opportunities.

Parents: Bullish, Yet Biased?

While the survey uncovers
parents’ overall positive attitudes about their sons’ and daughters’
abilities to achieve in science in school and beyond, at the same time it reveals
a subtle gender bias that favors their sons. This bias is revealed in the strength
of their answers to a series of questions. For example, while almost all (91
percent sons; 86 percent daughters) believe these careers are desirable for
their children, 65 percent say they are “very desirable” for their
boys and 41 percent say “very desirable” for their girls. In addition,
while nearly all parents (92 percent sons; 90 percent daughters) are confident
their children can succeed in S&E fields, 69 percent are “very confident”
about their boys and only 57 percent are “very confident” about their
girls.

“First and foremost,
we must applaud parents for recognizing their sons’ and daughters’
capacity to succeed in science, math and engineering fields, and for encouraging
and assisting them regularly in their formal and informal science education,”
said Dr. Mae C. Jemison, the nation’s first African-American female astronaut
and Bayer’s national MSMS spokesperson. “That said, parents and all
adults, for that matter, need to be aware that our own unspoken biases are often
communicated unknowingly to our children with negative impacts. When it comes
to science, math and engineering, we must acknowledge that for the United States
to build and maintain the kind of creative and inquisitive research that keeps
discovery and innovation alive, everyone must have a seat at the table.”

Challenges

In learning science, more
parents identify challenges for their daughters than they do for their sons.

When asked to evaluate such
possible challenges, parents indicated the following as either a big challenge
or somewhat of a challenge:

— Science classes are boring
or uninteresting (58 percent girls; 51 percent boys)

— Teachers who are poorly
qualified to teach science (57 percent girls; 47 percent boys)

— Few good science role
models or mentors for them (56 percent girls; 45 percent boys)

— Science is a difficult
subject to learn (54 percent girls; 43 percent boys)

Issues many parents believe
pose either little or no challenge at all for their children include:

— Science is not a “cool”
subject (64 percent girls; 67 percent boys)

— Teachers who hold the
view that their sons and daughters don’t belong in science (69 percent
girls; 75 percent boys)

“The good news here
is that old stereotypes seem to be breaking down,” said Jemison. “The
fact that science is no longer seen as ‘nerdy’ and that teachers are
seen as inclusive when it comes to boys and girls in science – these are
big steps in the right direction.”

Under-representation

But, Jemison says, more
work needs to be done, particularly in the area of under-representation. For
example, while two-thirds (66 percent) of parents polled report being aware
of the under-representation of women, African- Americans, Native Americans and
Hispanic Americans in S&E fields, and more than half (56 percent) are concerned,
only 15 percent are “very concerned” and a significant number of all
parents – except African-Americans – are not concerned (44 percent
parents overall; 63 percent Native Americans and 52 percent Hispanic Americans).
A larger number of African-American parents (69 percent) are concerned.

Further, parents do not
appear to share the concern outlined by the NSB and National Science Foundation
in recent national reports. These reports warn that the U.S.’s global leadership
position in science and technology could be threatened in the future if we don’t
begin adding more women and minorities to the number of scientists and engineers
we need to stay competitive. When asked whether this lack of participation threatens
the U.S.’s ability to compete with other countries in S&E, parents
were divided with roughly half saying “yes” (47 percent) and “no”
(49 percent).

“The science and engineering
communities not only need to do a better job communicating the myriad job opportunities
to students, we need to work much harder at letting them — and their parents
— know that we want and need them in these fields. One way is by actively supporting
science education programs that strive to eliminate this inequity and achieve
parity,” said Dr. Attila Molnar, Bayer Corporation president and CEO.

Closing the Gap

Parents agree. They believe
the S&E communities (92 percent), together with parents themselves (98 percent)
and others, share responsibility for ensuring women and minorities succeed in
these fields. In addition, many agree (72 percent) the S&E communities should
develop programs that attract, encourage and retain girls’ and minority
students’ interest in science and math.

Parents also think education
is key. One important way to eliminate this under-representation is for girls
and minorities to receive a strong science and math education beginning in elementary
school, say 95 percent of parents. Almost all parents (81 percent) believe science
should be the fourth “R” in elementary school and given the same emphasis
as reading, writing and math, although half (56 percent) believe science is/was
given less emphasis during their children’s elementary school years.

Almost all parents across
the board (87 percent) say that the most effective method for students to learn
science is through hands-on, inquiry-based instruction where students conduct
hands-on experiments, form opinions and discuss and defend their conclusions
with others. Virtually none of the parents (three percent) selected traditional
textbook-based, lecture-driven science education as the more effective method.

“The science and engineering
pipeline doesn’t begin in college, nor does it begin in high school. It
starts in elementary school at the earliest grades when all students are interested
in science,” explained Sarah Toulouse, who oversees Bayer’s MSMS initiative.
“Hands-on science, through the process of discovery, captures and sustains
this interest, while building important science literacy skills such as critical
thinking, problem solving and teamwork. We believe this is the way to create
a healthy pipeline – and not just of future scientists and engineers —
but of a citizenry that is scientifically literate.”

The Bayer Facts of Science
Education survey series, part of an ongoing annual public opinion research project,
is one component of Bayer’s company-wide Making Science Make Sense initiative
that advances science literacy through hands-on, inquiry-based science learning,
employee volunteerism and public education. Currently, 11 Bayer sites around
the country operate local MSMS programs, which together represent a national
volunteer corps of more than 1,000 employees.

Bayer Corporation, headquartered
in Pittsburgh, is part of the worldwide Bayer Group, an international health
care, nutrition and innovative materials group based in Leverkusen, Germany.
In North America, as of April 2005, Bayer employed about 16,000 and had net
sales of 8.3 billion euros. Bayer’s three operating companies — Bayer
HealthCare LLC, Bayer CropScience LP and Bayer MaterialScience LLC — improve
people’s lives through a broad range of essential products that help diagnose
and treat diseases, protect crops and advance automobile safety and durability.
The Bayer Group stock is a component of the DAX and is listed on the New York
Stock Exchange (ticker symbol: BAY).

Results of The Bayer Facts
of Science Education XI, conducted by Market Research Associates, are based
on a telephone poll of a total of 1,500 American parents using random digit
dialing. The confidence level achieved conducting the initial 1,000 telephone
interviews is 95 percent with a +/- three percent margin of error. Each of the
250 completed telephone interviews among the three minority groups provides
a confidence level of 95 percent with a +/- seven percent error factor.

For more information about
the Bayer Facts XI survey in both English and Spanish, please visit Bayer’s
MSMS Web site at http://www.BayerUS.com/MSMS.

FACT SHEET

Bayer Facts of Science Education
XI: American Parents Speak Out About Their Children and Science

Key Survey Findings: 
Hispanic American Parents

Parents and Their Children
and Science

According to Hispanic American
parents, they themselves play the greatest role in stimulating their son’s
interest in science (52 percent), followed by teachers (30 percent) and media,
such as film, television, books and magazines (13 percent)

For their daughters, however,
they believe teachers play the greatest role (43 percent), followed by them
the parents (31 percent) and media (19 percent)

When it comes to science
toys like microscopes, telescopes, experiment kits or rock, mineral or fossil
collections, more than half of Hispanic parents say they have given such items
to their children in the past year (79 percent sons; 54 percent daughters)

While more than eight in
10 Hispanic parents polled say their children have an interest in science (84
percent sons; 85 percent daughters), they are more likely to say their sons
are “very interested” (61 percent) than their daughters (31 percent)

When asked if their sons
have expressed an interest in continuing to study or have a career in science,
math or engineering, two-thirds (69 percent) say yes.  Only 46 percent
say the same for their daughters. 

While nine out of 10 (91
percent) Hispanic parents feel a science and engineering (S&E) career is
desirable for their daughters and eight of out 10 (78 percent) feel so for their
sons, more find it “very desirable” for their sons (70 percent) than
for their daughters (44 percent)

While more than nine in
10 (95 percent sons; 92 percent daughters) Hispanic parents are confident that
their children have the ability to succeed in science and math in school, more
are “very confident” about their sons (82 percent) than about their
daughters (69 percent)

While roughly nine in 10
(86 percent sons; 92 percent daughters) Hispanic parents are confident that
their children have the ability to succeed in a science and engineering career,
more are “very confident” about their sons (77 percent) than about
their daughters (61 percent)

— While Hispanic parents
are active in encouraging and/or helping their children learn science, they
report being more active with their sons than their daughters.  Specifically,
in the last year, they report engaging in the following activities at least
once a week with their children:

Activity Done at Least Once
a Week         Hispanic    
Hispanic
                                          
American     America
         
                                 Sons        
Daughters

Encourage them to do well
in school        99%         
99%

Emphasize science is an important
subject to learn                          
77%          69%

Teach science informally at
home           45%         
36%

Assist them with science
homework/school projects                  
41%          23%

Encourage them to learn
science through books                     
54%          22%

Encourage them to learn science
hands-on   37%         
30%

Challenges Faced Learning
Science

When it comes to learning
science, Hispanic American parents see more challenges for their daughters than
for their sons.  More than half of the parents indicate the following challenges
(“big” or “somewhat”) for their daughters:

— Boring or uninteresting
science classes (56 percent daughters, 51 percent sons)

— Science is a difficult
subject to learn (54 percent daughters, 27 percent sons)

— Few good science role
models or mentors (51 percent daughters, 36 percent sons)

Hispanic American parents
are divided about the challenge of teachers who are poorly qualified to teach
science, with 48 percent saying it is a challenge for their daughters and a
smaller 38 percent saying so for their sons

More than half of the Hispanic
American parents polled say the following are “little” or “no
challenges” for their daughters and sons to learn science:

— Teachers who think that
their children don’t belong in science (76 percent daughters, 79 percent
sons)

— Learning science when
English is not their first language (62 percent daughters, 55 percent sons)

— Science is not a cool
subject (53 percent daughters, 77 percent sons)

Science and Engineering
Careers for their Children:  Fantasy or Reality?

More than four-fifths (85
percent) of Hispanic parents think an advanced degree beyond a college bachelor’s
degree is necessary to have a job in science and engineering

More than half (56 percent)
of Hispanic parents were surprised to learn that, according to the National
Science Foundation, seven in 10 Americans working in science or engineering
have a bachelor’s degree or less education

Three-quarters (78 percent)
of Hispanic parents say that now knowing seven in 10 Americans working in science
or engineering today have a bachelor’s degree or less makes them think science
and engineering hold realistic job opportunities for their children     

Almost all (94 percent)
Hispanic parents feel the science and engineering community needs to do a better
job telling today’s students about these job opportunities

Under-representation

Two-thirds (62 percent)
of Hispanic parents are aware of the under-representation of women and minorities
in science and engineering fields

Half (48 percent) of Hispanic
parents are concerned about this under-representation, although only one-third
(35 percent) say they are “very concerned”       

For those Hispanic parents
who express concern, their reasons include

— Discrimination of any
kind is inappropriate and unfair (41 percent)

— Everyone should have
an equal shot at these jobs (38 percent)

— We need all the talent
we can get (16 percent)

— Other (13 percent)

Who Holds Responsibility?

When asked who holds the
“greatest responsibility” for ensuring that women and minorities succeed
in science and engineering fields, Hispanic parents polled say:

— Parents (70 percent)

— The Women and Minorities
Themselves (62 percent)

— Science and Engineering
Community (31 percent)

— Schools (31 percent)

— Government (23 percent)

In order to eliminate this
under-representation, nine in 10 (88 percent) Hispanic parents believe it is
important that girls and minorities receive a strong science and math education
beginning in elementary school, with more than four-fifths (85 percent) saying
this is “very important”

Two-thirds (68 percent)
of Hispanic parents agree that the science and engineering community, including
companies who employ S&E workers, should develop programs that attract,
encourage, and retain girls’ and minority students’ interest in science
and math in school

Specifically, Hispanic parents
believe the following company-sponsored education programs would be valuable: 

— Internships or school-to-work
programs for girls and minority high school students that bring them into companies
to interact with professional science & engineering workers in the workplace
(89 percent)

— Scholarship programs
that provide financial assistance to girls and minorities who are committed
to earning a degree in a science and engineering field (89 percent)

— Classroom programs that
bring women and minority science & engineering workers into classrooms to
serve as role models/mentors (83 percent)

Half (54 percent) the Hispanic
parents believe that under-representation by women and minorities threatens
the United States’ ability to compete with other countries in science and
engineering       

Science Education and Science
Literacy

Nine in 10 (92 percent)
Hispanic parents believe that, in elementary school, science should be given
the same emphasis as reading, writing and math

Four in 10 (42 percent)
Hispanic parents say that during their children’s years in elementary school
science has been given the same emphasis as reading, writing, and math; roughly
the same number (38 percent) say it has received less emphasis; eight percent
say science received more emphasis

At the elementary school
level, most (39 percent) Hispanic parents assign a “B” grade to their
children’s science education; another 34 percent give it a “C”;
only 15 percent rate it an “A” grade

In middle school or grades
6-8, most (39 percent) Hispanic parents assign a “B” grade to their
children’s science education; another 24 percent give it an “A”;
and 14 percent give it a “C” grade

Of those Hispanic parents
polled with high school age children, they most often give science education
a “B” grade (26 percent); 15 percent give it an “A”; and
nine percent a “C”

Almost all (96 percent)
Hispanic parents believe that science literacy is important for non-S&E
workers; eight in 10 (81 percent) say it is “very important”

Four-fifths (79 percent)
of Hispanic parents consider themselves science literate

Virtually all (89 percent)
Hispanic parents say that hands-on learning, where students conduct experiments,
form opinions, and discuss and defend conclusions with others, is the most effective
way for students to learn science

–30–

CONTACT:
Bayer Media Line
Rebecca Lucore
412-777-5200
o
Sarah Toulouse
412-777-5200

Parents of Under-Represented Students in Science and Engineering Speak Out on Issue in New National Survey