It's common to hear sweeping generalizations among STEM advocates about the lack of diversity and interest across all STEM fields. One educator took aim at this idea in a Tuesday panel discussion at the U.S. News Stem Solutions 2013 conference.
"Not all STEM fields are created equal," said Maria Klawe, president of Harvey Mudd College. "If I look at biology and chemistry classes, they are probably about 60 percent female, and there are a lot of students of color in those classes."
That sounds like a great thing, but Klawe cautioned that there is not job market demand for all of those students once they graduate. "They all think they're going to be doctors and the vast majority of them will not become doctors," she said.
While these students have advanced science skills, they may not command the same salary and employer interest as a computer programmer. Women and students of color are least represented in computer science, electrical engineering, and computer engineering, said Klawe.One imagines that President Klawe was referring to the difficulty in achieving entry into medical school; the reporter seems to have missed that one.
[If I were cynical, I would note that a not-insignificant portion of chemical and biological academia is involved in training pre-meds who will not become physicians. It is not a wonder that the upper-level majors courses seem to be more desirable for faculty to teach, as opposed to Chemistry 201.]
I would not tell a group of pre-meds "Hey, if you don't make it into med school, go become a chemist!" However, I would tell a group of pre-meds, "hey, you should think about the computer skills of the future, and try to get some of them." Readers, how about you?