– More than half give pre-college system a failing grade and are
experiencing a shortage in STEM talent
– Two-thirds are concerned that other countries’ increased access to STEM
talent is impacting competitiveness
PITTSBURGH, Sept. 17 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The U.S. Presidential candidates should be very concerned about the country’s ability to attract and retain science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workers in order to maintain its global leadership in science and technology, say CEOs and other C-suite executives at America’s Fortune 1000 STEM companies.
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One way to counter this talent crisis, they say, is to build a diverse STEM pipeline beginning at the earliest educational level. And while they believe they and other STEM companies have a responsibility to support such a diverse pipeline, they also say the current American pre-college education system is failing to engage girls and minorities to pursue STEM careers.
These are among the findings of a new survey commissioned by Bayer Corporation as part of its Making Science Make Sense(R) initiative. In the latest Bayer Facts of Science Education Survey XIII: Fortune 1000 STEM Executives on STEM Education, STEM Diversity and U.S. Competitiveness, senior executives leading some of the country’s largest chemical, pharmaceutical, aerospace, semiconductor and other STEM industry companies were polled about a host of issues related to diversity and underrepresentation of women, African Americans, Native Americans and Hispanics in STEM fields and their impact on U.S. competitiveness.
Specifically, the survey asked 100 of these Fortune 1000 executives to address three STEM workforce aspects: first, the current U.S. STEM workforce needs in the face of rising international competition. Second, the need for a more diverse U.S. STEM pipeline to address these needs in order to remain competitive. And third, recruitment and workplace realities in achieving a diverse STEM workplace.
“What is most dramatic about this survey is the extent to which the Fortune executives speak with one unequivocal voice on these issues,” said Dr. Attila Molnar, President and CEO of Bayer Corporation. “Almost without exception, they overwhelmingly recognize this country’s great need to tap the potential of the entire STEM talent pool, and the importance of doing so at every point on the development continuum beginning in elementary school with high-quality, hands-on, inquiry-based science education, on through college where STEM talent is refined and recruited, and then into the workplace where it must be further nurtured and encouraged.”
The Need: Current and Imminent STEM Workforce Challenges
Almost all of the Fortune 1000 STEM executives (95 percent) are concerned that the U.S. is in danger of losing its global leadership position in science and technology due to a shortage of STEM talent, with more than half (55 percent) reporting their companies are already experiencing such a shortage.
When it comes to rising international competition, fully two-thirds (68 percent) are concerned that other countries’ increasing access to STEM talent is giving rival companies based in these countries a competitive advantage over them, with one-fifth (20 percent) saying they are “very concerned.”
Further, they think these are issues the U.S. presidential candidates should be concerned about. In fact, nearly all (98 percent) believe the state of the country’s STEM workforce vis-a-vis its continued competitiveness should be a major issue for the U.S. presidential candidates, with two-thirds (68 percent) saying the candidates should be very concerned.
Diversifying the STEM talent pool is one solution to this problem, the Fortune executives say. Almost nine-in-10 (89 percent) agree that bringing more women and minorities into STEM fields will help solve this issue. Moreover, diversity has other benefits for STEM companies, according to the executives, including increasing innovation and the ability to be more competitive in the global marketplace.
Still, underrepresentation is prevalent. Nearly all of the executives are aware of this and many recognize underrepresentation for the talent problem it is. Almost nine-in-10 Fortune 1000 STEM executives (89 percent) acknowledge it exists in their industry, with a similar number (82 percent) reporting it exists in their own companies. Of those who say it is a reality for them, 83 percent say the lack of women, African Americans, Native Americans and Hispanics is a talent concern for their companies.
The Seed: Growing a Diverse American STEM Pipeline
Not surprisingly, almost all the senior executives (98 percent) say it is important for girls and minorities to receive a strong science and math education beginning in elementary school in order to reduce their underrepresentation in STEM fields, with nine-in-10 (90 percent) saying it is very important. And, say the executives, the most effective way for these students to learn science is through a hands-on, inquiry-based approach (87 percent).
However, they believe the U.S. education system is falling short here. Not one of the executives surveyed graded the U.S. an “A” when asked how good a job the U.S. pre-college system is doing in engaging and nurturing girls and minorities to pursue STEM careers. In fact, almost six-in-10 (55 percent) assigned it a failing grade of D or F.
The country’s higher education system fares somewhat better for its ability to train women and minorities for STEM careers, with executives assigning it an average grade of “C+.” Overall, the U.S. education system gets a “C” from executives for providing U.S. companies with diverse, talented and skilled STEM graduates.
“To successfully develop a diverse STEM workforce, we have to begin at the beginning,” explained Dr. Mae C. Jemison, the nation’s first African American female astronaut and Bayer’s national Making Science Make Sense(R) (MSMS) spokesperson.
“After all, how can we expect to graduate the necessary numbers of scientists, engineers and mathematicians from college if we don’t have enough students coming out of high school interested and prepared to work and study in these subjects? The pipeline is critical to our future global leadership and competitiveness. We must build a robust STEM pipeline that includes everyone and equally values their ideas, creativity and potential. Are we succeeding here? The Fortune executives are pretty unanimous in their belief that, at the pre-college level, no, we’re not there yet.”
Do STEM companies have a role to play here? Overwhelmingly, the Fortune 1000 STEM executives say yes, they do. Nearly all executives (97 percent) say that STEM companies have a role to play in ensuring women and minorities succeed in science and engineering fields, and consider it important (98 percent) for their companies to support pre-college science education programs that help create the next generation of inventors, innovators and discoverers, with two-thirds (66 percent) saying it is very important.
Moreover, the vast majority of Fortune executives say their companies are fulfilling that role. Nearly nine-in-10 (87 percent) indicate their companies or employees participate in pre-college education programs that attract, encourage and sustain girls’ and minority students’ interest in math and science. In particular, the executives see value in “Scientists in the Schools” programs, with nearly all (96 percent) agreeing that “direct contact with scientists and engineers is an effective way to help students better appreciate careers in science and engineering.”
“This is clearly one area where the larger, more established STEM companies have something to share with their counterparts,” said Bridget McCourt, director of Bayer’s MSMS initiative, referring to a previous Bayer Facts survey in which CEOs of some of the country’s fastest-growing STEM companies were polled about many of the same diversity/underrepresentation issues.
In that survey, while roughly the same number of executives (98 percent) acknowledged the benefits of programs like “Scientists in the Schools,” only one-third (37 percent) said their companies or employees participated in such programs, compared with 87 percent of the Fortune executives.
“As a company that is successfully supporting these and other types of STEM education programs aimed at girls and minority students at all educational levels, we at Bayer are eager to share with other STEM companies our knowledge about exemplary programs and our insights about the challenges and opportunities of engaging in business-education partnerships,” said McCourt, who oversees Bayer’s award-winning corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative that advances science literacy across the United States through hands-on, inquiry-based science learning, employee volunteerism and public education.
In all of this, says McCourt, communication is key. And that is one area where the Fortune 1000 STEM executives see room for their own improvement. Only half (54 percent) say their companies are effectively communicating the message to today’s students that there are myriad job opportunities available for them in STEM fields.
The Feed: Nurturing Women and Minority STEM Employees in the Workplace
In addition to supporting STEM education programs aimed at females and minorities, the vast majority of executives say their companies are also actively recruiting these groups. Seven-in-10 executives (71 percent) say their companies have specific programs in place to recruit women and minority STEM workers, and among them more than half (58 percent) recruit from colleges and universities that traditionally serve women and minorities.
Still, recruiting women and minorities can be challenging and frustrating, according to the executives. Four-in-five executives (80 percent) report their companies face challenges in hiring adequate numbers of women and minorities for STEM positions. Of those, half (50 percent) say they are frustrated by their companies’ inability to hire adequate numbers of women and minority STEM workers.
The main sources of frustration include a limited number of women/minorities qualified for STEM positions (44 percent); problems identifying/locating/recruiting qualified candidates (29 percent); and, difficulty attracting/retaining them due to company location (19 percent).
Once hired, most executives (63 percent) report their companies have specific programs designed to nurture and retain women and minority STEM workers. Programs are one thing; C-suite role models are another. While nearly all the executives (96 percent) recognize the importance of female and minority role models in senior management positions, they are split over how well their companies do in providing such role models to younger workers, with half (55 percent) assigning themselves an A/B grade and half (45 percent) a C/D.
“The importance of role models and mentors cannot be overstated,” explained Dr. Jemison, who is also a physician, chemical engineer, renowned science educator and CEO of BioSentient Inc., an emerging medical devices company.
“For younger employees, seeing people who look like you achieving at the highest levels in your chosen field is a strong signal that a company is serious about diversity. Being actively mentored takes that seriousness of purpose one step further and shows younger employees the company is committed to developing their talent and ensuring their success. It’s leading from the front.”
Results of The Bayer Facts of Science Education XIII, conducted by ICR (International Communications Research), are based on a telephone poll of 100 C-level executives at Fortune 1000 STEM companies. While Fortune defines its companies in terms of industry (pharmaceutical, telecommunications, etc.), it does not characterize them necessarily as STEM companies. In order to create such a list, Fortune 1000 companies with high R&D employment and expenditure were identified by matching companies on the 2007 Fortune list with a list of the 1,000 top non-European Union R&D intensive companies prepared by the European Commission. Survey respondents were drawn from this list. The statistical reliability achieved conducting the 100 interviews is a maximum +/- 9.8 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level.
About Bayer Corporation’s Making Science Make Sense
Making Science Make Sense (MSMS) is Bayer Corporation’s company-wide initiative that advances science literacy through hands-on, inquiry-based science education, employee volunteerism and a public education campaign. Currently, 12 Bayer sites around the country operate local MSMS programs, which together represent a national volunteer corps of more than 1,000 employees.
About Bayer Corporation
Bayer Corporation, headquartered in Pittsburgh, is a subsidiary of Bayer AG, an international health care, nutrition and high-tech materials group based in Leverkusen, Germany. In North America, Bayer had 2007 net sales of 8.1 billion euros and employed 16,800 at year end. Bayer’s three subgroups, Bayer HealthCare, Bayer CropScience and Bayer MaterialScience, improve people’s lives through a broad range of essential products that help diagnose, prevent and treat diseases; protect crops and enhance yields; and advance automobile safety and durability.
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