This Foundation President Is Laser-Focused on Diversity in STEM

As president of the Siemens Foundation, Jeniffer Harper-Taylor has her hands full, managing $7 million in annual grantmaking that includes one of the more prominent science competitions in the country. But she’s also been a vocal advocate in other venues for STEM education and diversity. Here are a few insights she’s offered on the how we can tackle the issue. 

Harper-Taylor has a pretty interesting background that includes, among other things, a stint as a TV news reporter. And her foundation has expanded significantly since she began there as a program manager back in 2000, including the flagship Siemens Competition, professional development camps for teachers, and a K-12 sustainability contest. To read more about Harper-Taylor and the Siemens Foundation, hit the full profile links below. But given her role as a frequent speaker, voice in the media, and community leader on the topic of diversity in STEM, let’s take a look at three ideas she’s offered in past interviews and opinion pieces on how to solve this problem:

1. Human Resources Oversight 

Perhaps not the most glamorous of approaches, but Harper-Taylor emphasized, in a New York Times op-ed piece called “Room for Debate,” that training university hiring officers can go a long way toward building awareness of persistent bias against women in science. “Professors should have limits on their authority in the hiring process,” she wrote. “They should be involved, but salaries should be set by the university with input from trained human resources personnel to make sure compensation is based on standard market salary ranges for specific skill sets and qualifications.” 

2. Celebrating Success

In that same opinion piece, Harper-Taylor pointed out the big impact that recognizing success can have on young women entering the fields. She references many women she knows pursuing STEM careers who have said awards and media attention for success boosted their confidence to continue. 

In an interview with STEMconnector, she pointed out that the value of science careers needs to be celebrated in arenas outside of academia:

We need to create a culture that celebrates math, science and technology at all levels of society. We should look to develop more public-private partnerships and collaborations between academia, the business community, government, nonprofits and the media that inspire women to become more actively engaged in STEM.

3. Changing Perceptions

Similarly, Harper-Taylor has argued that getting a more diverse pool of people pursuing STEM careers means altering the popular view of science as something that happens in a lab, performed by a specific type of person. She wrote in the Times that we need to “counter the myth that girls don’t do science.” In the STEMconnector Q&A, she points out that “we need to do better at making STEM topics relatable to students’ everyday lives and interests.” 

When Harper-Taylor was selected in 2012 as one of 25 Influential Black Women by The Network Journal, she offered similar sentiments about making things that once seemed nerdy cool. “Students are shocked to learn that everything they do — including playing video games — involves science, technology, engineering and math to some degree,” she told the magazine.

And one bonus insight into the strategies this foundation leader values: partnerships. Siemens is all about partnerships across nonprofits, governments and the private sector as ways to expand reach and add resources. Read more in our full profiles below:

Jeniffer Harper-Taylor, Siemens Foundation

Siemens Foundation: Grants for Science Education