HHMI’s research labs, like many others, do not reflect the demographic diversity of the U.S. population. As a result, we miss talent that we otherwise might have in science. That’s a problem – not only socially, but also scientifically. We want to find the best solutions to difficult problems. To do that, we need the varying perspectives of people who come from different races, ethnicities, genders, training backgrounds, and more.
HHMI will actively use our resources – funding, community, and influence – to increase diversity and inclusion in our scientific community and beyond.
Rationale: At large U.S. research universities, only a quarter of full professors in the life sciences are women. The number of underrepresented minorities is vanishingly small. Because HHMI trains many scientists in top academic labs, we have a unique opportunity to address this important problem by actively identifying and nurturing talent from all backgrounds.
Approach: We work to foster the scientific careers of highly talented researchers from underrepresented groups in science. Through our Gilliam Fellows program, we hold open competitions to select and support underrepresented PhD students. Similarly, our Hanna H. Gray Fellows program selects postdoctoral fellows, who are funded all the way into the first few years of an independent academic appointment. In addition to these program efforts, HHMI is placing new emphasis on developing inclusive environments in our own labs and operations.
HHMI will partner with universities and colleges to build their capacity to develop scientific talent in ALL students and to overcome barriers such as socioeconomic status, gender, or ethnic and racial background.
Rationale: Every year in the U.S., about 40% of freshmen (more than 1.5 million students) enter college planning to study science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM). Before the end of their sophomore year, many switch to non-STEM majors. This attrition is greatest among underrepresented groups where up to 80% leave STEM. Why does this happen – and what can schools do about it?
Approach: We support the development and sharing of innovative approaches that colleges and universities can take to enable students from all backgrounds to experience science and to pursue further study of science. Our Inclusive Excellence initiative challenges schools to make foundational and lasting changes, from improving the structure of science coursework and teaching to adjusting school policies, better training faculty, and improving campus culture so that all students have positive exposure to science. We are working to identify the key ingredients of the most successfully inclusive school environments, so that other schools can adopt what works. For example, we seek to replicate the success of programs such as the Meyerhoff Scholars program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.