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San Diego Conference Looking To Diversify STEM Workforce

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Photo caption:

Photo credit: Dianna Cowern

Dianna Cowern also known as "Physics Girl" is pictured in a YouTube video.

Tackling the problem of how to staff jobs in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, a San Diego conference is also looking at ways to get more women and minorities into those jobs.

The STEM Solutions National Leadership Conference sponsored by the U.S. News and World Report started Monday in San Diego.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, only 16 percent of U.S. students are proficient in math and are interested in a STEM career.

The latest research from the Pew Research Center ranks American high school seniors 35th in math and 27th in science among other developed and developing countries.

Research by the National Science Board suggests there has been little success in attracting women and minorities to STEM careers, despite a growing need for workers in those fields, and a push by the federal government to train students for such careers.

Dianna Cowern, who is known on YouTube as “Physics Girl,” is the science outreach coordinator for UC San Diego. She thinks there are less women in STEM fields because of societal pressure.

“They are either discouraged when they are much younger or they are not encouraged,” Cowern told KPBS Midday Edition on Tuesday. “You see the stereotype of a scientist, which is a white male.”

Peter Callstrom, president and CEO of the San Diego Workforce Partnership, said it’s important to provide access to STEM education to all communities.

“There’s definitely a talent gap out there,” Callstrom said. “There are over 6,000 coding jobs in our county right now.”

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