Fortune Execs: System Failing to Produce

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<p><strong>Pittsburgh</strong><br />The U.S. Presidential candidates should be very concerned about the country&rsquo;s ability to attract and retain science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workers to maintain its global leadership in science and technology, said CEOs and other C-suite executives at America&rsquo;s Fortune 1000 STEM companies.<br /><br />One way to counter this talent crisis, they said, 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 American precollege education system is failing to engage girls and minorities to pursue STEM careers. <br /><br />These are among the findings of a new survey commissioned by Bayer Corp. as part of its Making Science Make Sense initiative. In the latest &ldquo;Bayer Facts of Science Education Survey XIII: Fortune 1000 STEM Executives on STEM Education, STEM Diversity and U.S. Competitiveness,&rdquo; senior executives leading some of the country&rsquo;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.<br /><br />Specifically, the survey asked 100 of these Fortune 1000 executives to address three STEM workforce aspects: the current U.S. STEM workforce needs in the face of rising international competition, the need for a more diverse U.S. STEM pipeline to remain competitive, and recruitment and workplace realities in achieving a diverse STEM workplace.<br /><br />&ldquo;What is most dramatic about this survey is the extent to which the Fortune executives speak with one unequivocal voice on these issues,&rdquo; said Dr. Attila Molnar, president and CEO of Bayer Corp. </p><p>&ldquo;Almost without exception, they overwhelmingly recognize this country&rsquo;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.&rdquo;<br /><br /><strong>Current and Imminent Challenges</strong><br />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.<br /><br />When it comes to rising international competition, two-thirds (68 percent) are concerned other countries&rsquo; increasing access to STEM talent is giving rival companies based in these countries a competitive advantage over them, with one-fifth saying they are &ldquo;very concerned.&rdquo;<br /><br />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&rsquo;s STEM workforce vis-à-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.<br /><br />Diversifying the STEM talent pool is one solution to this problem, the Fortune executives said. Almost nine in 10 (89 percent) agree 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.<br /><br />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.<br /><br /><strong>Growing a Diverse American Pipeline</strong><br />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 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).<br /><br />&ldquo;To successfully develop a diverse STEM workforce, we have to begin at the beginning,&rdquo; explained Dr. Mae C. Jemison, the nation&rsquo;s first African-American female astronaut and Bayer&rsquo;s national Making Science Make Sense (MSMS) spokesperson.<br /><br />&ldquo;After all, how can we expect to graduate the necessary numbers of scientists, engineers and mathematicians from college if we don&rsquo;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. <br /><br />&ldquo;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 precollege level, no, we&rsquo;re not there yet.&rdquo;<br /><br />Do STEM companies have a role to play here? Overwhelmingly, the Fortune 1000 STEM executives say, &ldquo;Yes, they do.&rdquo; Nearly all executives (97 percent) say 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 precollege science education programs that help create the next generation of inventors, innovators and discoverers, with two-thirds (66 percent) saying it is very important.<br /><br /><strong>Nurturing Women and Minority Employees</strong><br />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.<br /><br />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&rsquo; inability to hire adequate numbers of women and minority STEM workers.<br /><br />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).<br /><br />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. <br /><br />&ldquo;The importance of role models and mentors cannot be overstated,&rdquo; explained Dr. Jemison, who is also a physician, chemical engineer, renowned science educator and CEO of BioSentient Inc., an emerging medical devices company.<br /><br />&ldquo;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&rsquo;s leading from the front.&rdquo;</p>

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