Professional organizations in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) can use demographic data to quantify recruitment and retention (R&R) of underrepresented groups within their memberships. However, variation in the types of demographic data collected can influence the targeting and perceived impacts of R&R efforts - e.g., giving false signals of R&R for some groups. We obtained demographic surveys from 73 U.S.-affiliated STEM organizations, collectively representing 712,000 members and conference-attendees. We found large differences in the demographic categories surveyed (e.g., disability status, sexual orientation) and the available response options. These discrepancies indicate a lack of consensus regarding the demographic groups that should be recognized and, for groups that are omitted from surveys, an inability of organizations to prioritize and evaluate R&R initiatives. Aligning inclusive demographic surveys across organizations can provide baseline data that can be used to target and evaluate R&R initiatives to better serve underrepresented groups throughout STEM.
N. P. Burnett, A. M. Hernandez, E. E. King, R. L. Tanner, K. Wilsterman, A Push for Inclusive Data Collection in STEM Organizations. Science. 376, 37-39 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1126/science.abo1599