Deaf People of Color in STEM

November 23, 2020

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Deaf People of Color in STEM

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) careers are among the fastest-growing and highest-paying jobs today. Yet these industries are some of the least representative among women and people of color, specifically people who are Black, Indigenous and Hispanic/Latino/a/x (Latinx).

According to PEW research, Blacks make up 11% of the U.S. workforce overall but represent 9% of STEM workers, while Latinx comprise 16% of the U.S. workforce but only 7% of all STEM workers. Asians are somewhat overrepresented, making up nearly 30% of the workforce. Plus, the Department of Commerce found that 7 out of 20 STEM positions in the US are held by white, non-latinxs and less than 25% of STEM positions are held by women.  

Lack of representation among Blacks and Latinxs have been attributed to a variety of issues: lack of support, quality education, and workplace discrimination, to name a few. For Deaf and hard of hearing STEMists of color, language and communication barriers pose additional challenges. Thanks to CSD Learns’ partnership with General Motors, the number STEMists of color is growing. Watch the webinar to hear from three talented STEMists of color on their experiences coming up in the field.   


Watch the Webinar

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Here are three takeaways on how you can support your children, students, or mentees of color:  
Educators from predominantly white institutions (PWIs) can do more.

Indulge and encourage students’ curiosity. Students of color, especially those in PWIs, can face certain microaggressions from both peers and teachers. When a student of color asks a question and doesn’t get called on, this can be perceived as discriminatory or a microaggression. Encourage all of your students to participate equally, and create an environment where everyone feels safe asking questions. Also, take the time to learn how to communicate with diverse students. Deaf and hard of hearing students of color may be used to using other spoken or signed languages such as Black American Sign Language (BASL) or Indian Sign Language (ISL) at home. Certain concepts may not always be as easily understood due to language or cultural differences. Review your content and find innovative ways to break down complex concepts.    

Representation matters. 

There are many STEM role models of color. Young students need to have the opportunity to see themselves in fields that are perceived as predominantly white. Incorporate lessons about STEMists of color into your curriculum and make efforts to invite diverse visitors for career day. There’s nothing more powerful and motivating as seeing yourself reflected in your heroes.

If you're looking for representative resources, we offer a variety of STEM toolkits and courses for students featuring D/HH role models. Sign up, or login to get access.  

Mix things up. 

Put students from different backgrounds together for group projects. Strong soft skills such as interpersonal communication and problem-solving are highly valued in STEM careers. Give your students the opportunity to learn how to work with one another and build on their analytical skills. This will help your students replicate these behaviors in the workplace and make STEM a more inclusive space for everyone.  

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For additional resources on professional organizations, teaching, and STEM in ASL, subscribe to our email list to receive updates straight to your inbox.

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CSD Learns aims to create equity and give the community resources for self-improvement and advocacy. The program’s goal is to provide equity for deaf people in the workplace and give people the tools for self-improvement and autonomous social mobility. By providing self-paced online courses with visual and auditory paths for interaction, we ensure that people from all intersections can engage with our content and build their own pathways to success. CSD Learns’ courses can be accessed by any individual, school, or organization at no cost.
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