Director’s Message—Committing to Meaningful Change in Our DEI Journey

Working within the CHIPS and Science Act space has highlighted a gap in the last year—Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) often feels more like a checkbox for funding than a genuine commitment to our Micro Nanotechnology Education Center (MNT-EC) programs. Let’s change that. It is time for DEI to reflect on our actions as much as our applications. By focusing on realistic, actionable steps, we can ensure our MNT workforce becomes more diverse and inclusive. Let’s make it a genuine part of building the future, not just a requirement to meet.

A photorealistic image that represents a diverse classroom setting, with icons or imagery reflecting technology, mathematics, and cultural elements. Created by Midjourney AI with the above terms.
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Editor’s NOTE: Please see link at end of post for various DEI Resources.

Given the anti-DEI sentiment in society, we need to have a renewed focus. Over the past year, 81 anti-DEI bills have been introduced nationwide, and eight have become law. MNT-EC wants to support an inclusive nano education and workforce pathway. We’re about more than just science; we’re about bringing together people from all walks of life from various marginalized and underrepresented identities to innovate and push nanotechnology forward. Let’s face it: these stats do not paint a great picture, but we know the best ideas come from diverse minds working together. 

  • Only 26.7% of tech jobs are held by women, showcasing a significant gender gap within the industry.
  • Racial diversity in tech is low, with Black Americans holding 7% of jobs, Latinx Americans 8%, and Asian Americans 20%, despite more concerted efforts to improve these numbers.
  • Tech executives in the United States are overwhelmingly white, at 83.3%.
  • A notable pay gap exists, with women in tech being offered, on average, 3% less salary than men for equivalent roles.
  • Compared to the general industry, the high-tech sector employs a higher percentage of white workers (68.5%) and Asian Americans (14%) but fewer Black Americans (7.4%) and Latinx Americans (8%).

Bringing DEI into the heart of engineering and nano means we’re not just teaching subject matter for nano; we’re building a community that mirrors the real world. It also means that we acknowledge and hope to challenge structural oppression in society (e.g., racism, sexism, classism). With initiatives that open doors for everyone, we’re making sure the future of nano is as diverse as the world around us.

And with the big push from the federal government’s CHIPS Act, we’re on the brink of a new era in tech. This isn’t just about keeping America in the lead; it’s about ensuring the lead is held by a team as diverse as America. Further, the CHIPS Act presents an opportunity to think meaningfully about equity and play a role in creating a more equitable and diverse workforce. 

We hope that MNT-EC will be part of a collective effort, across the entire USA (and the world) where we focus on DEI in a meaningful way. I wrote this in January: Director’s Message — Nano Education: Inspiring the Next Generation. 

It is worth noting that the U.S. Department of the Treasury examined wealth and income inequality, and the CHIPS Act offers the opportunity to expand access to higher-paying jobs for underrepresented groups. In the new DEI section, we link to the article Racial Inequality in the United States | U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Adding to our vibrant conversation on making nano education more inclusive, MNT-EC is taking things further. We’re assembling a DEI resource library with downloadable PDFs, YouTube videos, Articles, and other resources. Some resources have come from our educator network and helped develop what you will find there. Whether you’re looking to expand your professional skills or become more informed, this library is here to help everyone grow. If you know of an excellent resource or document, please get in touch.

We want to see the future of nano as broad and inclusive as the community we serve. It’s about creating spaces where everyone can find something valuable, learn from it, and contribute. With this library, MNT-EC leads toward a more inclusive, knowledgeable, and connected nano community.

In our DEI resource section, there are three excellent resources to look for in addition to a collection we continue expanding. You can click on the screenshot to the left or the text link below.

  1. Washington University’s Diversity Success: A real-world success story from Washington University, published in the Harvard Business Review, showcases the deliberate strategies to create a diverse and thriving academic department, proving that intentional effort can lead to significant positive change.
  2. Hidden Curriculum in Engineering Education: This piece illuminates the often-unseen forces shaping student experiences in engineering, emphasizing the need for awareness and action to support all students, especially those from underrepresented groups.
  3. The Equity Excellence Imperative is a visionary blueprint for making equity a cornerstone of excellence in undergraduate education. It offers practical strategies for creating a more inclusive and high-achieving academic environment.

Find PDFs and more on the MNT-EC Diversity Equity Inclusion – DEI Resources Page.

Special thanks for guidance and insights in this DEI post to:

  • Dr. Jalil Bishop is a critical qualitative scholar with expertise in college affordability, student debt, anti-racist policymaking, and the racialized geography of life opportunity. 

You can read more about them in a 2023 post about their national recognition as MNT-EC Evaluators.