The Need for Increasing Racial Diversity in Biology

If you are considering pursuing a biology major, and you are a person of color in Ohio, know that this important field of science needs you!

Biology, like most STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields, continues to lack the diversity of the larger U.S. population. In life sciences, which includes biology, a persistent racial gap exists in both employment and students pursuing degrees in the field.

According to data from the Pew Research Center, the workforce in the life sciences is 65 percent white, while Blacks, who make up 11 percent of all employed adults, account for just 6 percent of life sciences jobs. The number for Hispanics, who hold just 8 percent of all life sciences jobs, is similarly low.  

Increasing Racial Diversity Starts in Higher Ed

In the higher education ranks, according to the same data, a similar problem exists. Black students earned just 7 percent of STEM bachelor’s degrees and Hispanics earned 12 percent of those degrees. A 2019 study shows an even more troubling statistic: 40 percent of Black students switch out of STEM majors, compared with just 29 percent of white students.

This racial gap matters, especially as the growth in STEM jobs is expected to outpace that of other jobs in coming years, and salaries in these fields also are higher than in other professions. What’s more, this gap also means that people of color have fewer opportunities to help shape the advancement of scientific research and innovation, including in biology. 

What Can Be Done to Shrink the Racial Gap in the Field of Biology? 

A combination of efforts has proven effective in attracting more people of color to biology and other STEM fields, including outreach efforts, tutoring and peer mentoring, and initiatives at colleges and universities that include summer programs for high school students and research internships. 

Professors and instructors can also help promote student achievement. According to a study, the racial achievement gap is cut nearly in half when STEM professors promote a growth mindset belief. Then there are the efforts of individuals to close the racial gap in STEM fields.

Progress has been made to attract more students of color to major in biology and other STEM fields, and to keep them in these majors until they successfully earn degrees and enter professions within life sciences. But more work is needed—along with more students of color willing to pursue these challenging and rewarding careers.

Inspired Futures in Biology

Start on the path to a career in the life sciences with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from John Carroll University. The program offers broad study across three core areas: cellular and molecular biology, organismal biology, and evolutionary biology, ecology, and diversity. 

The program also prepares graduates for careers that require a strong background in biology and chemistry, including medicine, dentistry, optometry, pharmacy, nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, physician’s assistant, public health, and veterinary medicine. In addition, this major prepares students for graduate programs and research positions in biology and related disciplines such as physiology, neuroscience, evolutionary biology.

JCU is a private Jesuit university located in University Heights, Ohio, near Cleveland.