ADVANCE Weekly Roundup: Programs to Diversify Role Models in STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Medicine)

An engineer friend once told my wife that my daughter, who was considering majors in college, was not the right type to be an engineer. Too often, we develop preconceived ideas of what a scientist, engineer, or artist is expected to look like. We use such stereotypes to simplify the complex world around us. This practice becomes harmful when it projects narrow preconceived expectations on others. Teachers and professors who consciously or unconsciously expect different competencies from different genders or races not only constrain their own ability to think creatively and originally in the classroom but they do real harm to the ambitions of students.

Today’s Weekly Roundup focuses on two articles from Science that describe programs that work to widen our expectations and images of what a professional in STEMM (science, technology, engineering, math, and medicine) looks like. And for my engineering friend and the record, my daughter earned a computer engineering degree from the University of Michigan and is in the last year of her PhD in computer science at MIT.  

The first article, “Women innovators become STEM ambassadors for girls,” describes an AAAS program called IF/THEN. It focuses on ambassadors who are selected to become high-profile role models for middle-school girls. One goal is to break down narrow exclusionary ideas of what a scientist or engineer looks like and does. When we show that engineers can be dancers and artists and that scientists can be poets and athletes, we allow young people to see greater opportunity for themselves in STEMM.

The second article describes the contributions of Shirley Malcom who has led the Sea (STEMM Equity Achievement) Change Program, which is supported by AAAS and helps academic institutions identify how they can better serve diverse students and faculty. Sea Change grew out of the 2005 Athena SWAN Charter which was developed to promote greater participation of women in science in the United Kingdom. Malcom adapted and broadened this program to include other underrepresented groups.

Today’s feature was shared with us by David Flaspohler. If you have an article you think we should feature, please email it to and we will consider adding it to the ADVANCE Weekly Roundup.

The ADVANCE Weekly Roundup is brought to you by ADVANCE at Michigan Tech, which is an NSF-funded initiative dedicated to improving faculty career success, retention, diversity, equity, and inclusion. These articles are available on the ADVANCE Newsblog ( To learn more about this week’s topic, our mission, programming efforts, and to check out our growing collection of resources, contact us at ( or visit our website:

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