Diversity in the geosciences and successful strategies for increasing diversity

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Data available from the National Science Foundation Division of Science Resources Statistics demonstrate that since 1966 fewer bachelor's, master's, and Ph.D. degrees have been awarded in the geosciences than in any other STEM field. Data spanning the time period from 1995-2001 indicate that the percentage of bachelor's and master's degrees awarded to members of racial and ethnic groups that are underrepresented in STEM fields was lower in the geosciences than in other STEM fields. The percentage of Ph.D. degrees awarded in the geosciences to students drawn from underrepresented groups from 1995-2001 was similar to the percentage awarded in math and computer science, physical science, and engineering. It appears that the geosciences retain a greater number of students drawn from underrepresented groups during the transition from master's to Ph.D. degree programs, and/or recruit underrepresented students into Ph.D. programs from other STEM fields. The geosciences have had success recruiting and retaining women since 1966, and the lessons learned in increasing gender diversity in the field may help the geoscience community increase its racial and ethnic diversity in the future. Four strategies that consistently appear to be effective in increasing diversity are: demonstrating the relevance of the field and opportunities for high-paying careers in it; developing partnerships among multiple stakeholders to reduce 'leaks' from the educational pipeline; promoting strong mentoring relationships among students and geoscience professionals, including opportunities for students to conduct research prior to graduate school; and providing financial assistance when necessary.

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Journal of Geoscience Education