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Diversifying STEM: The PatternFly way

The PatternPast visual logo. It reads “PatternFly vintage blog, established 2015.”

Blast from the #PatternPast! This article was formerly located on our old WordPress blog. It was originally written by Abigael Donahue and published on October 28, 2019.

STEM has plenty to boast about: major medical breakthroughs; advances in life-saving technology; business software that pushes us to new heights. The list goes on.

But STEM falls short in a key area: diversity.

Progress is amplified with fresh perspectives and bright minds from all backgrounds. The proof is in the numbers, too. Diversity plays a huge role in successful business performance. More importantly, celebrating diversity and creating a sense of belonging for people of all backgrounds is the right thing to do. Humanity cannot make strides forward unless everyone has a stake in its development.

But here’s a sobering statistic: There aren’t many women in STEM, especially science and engineering. These industries are 72% male. On top of that, only 1 in 20 employed scientists and engineers are women of color. Women should not be shut out of this vibrant industry that’s continually making progress and changing lives. So Red Hat’s User Experience Design (UXD) team set out to connect with young women during MassSTEM week.

In true PatternFly fashion, we wanted this event to bring communities of people together. With the Private Industry Council (PIC)’s help, we visited English High School to educate, inform, and inspire female students about the world of STEM.

Participants in our “Women in STEM” visit to English High School

We had a great time bonding over our favorite school subjects, sharing our college and work experiences, and learning more about the students’ interests and goals. These high school students were a privilege to meet. The classroom was filled with ambitious young women with big dreams of pursuing medicine, engineering, teaching, and more.

Ambitious female students immersed in a roundtable discussion

However, when asked what STEM looked like to them, most of the students thought of men in white lab coats.

They’re not alone, either.

Presenting images of women in STEM to challenge generalized male-centric imagery surrounding the field

With so few women in tech, many people don’t picture a woman when they think of a scientist or engineer. Debbie Sterling demonstrated this in her TED talk, which the students viewed for a few minutes before our discussion.

The good news? We have the power to fix this.

Take PatternFly, for example. PatternFly thrives on community. As an open source design system, we rely on the input and contributions from a variety of people to truly provide accessible and impactful design on a large scale.

STEM is no different. People of all backgrounds, ethnicities, genders, etc. are needed in STEM so that we can really make a positive impact. When diverse minds come together to solve big challenges, we can hit milestones that were once deemed impossible.

So here’s an ask of you: Continue contributing and engaging in the world of open source design. And while you’re at it, encourage others to do the same — especially those who are underrepresented in STEM. There can never be a shortage of ideas.

With that said, let’s refuse to settle. As catalysts in the world of tech, we must demand equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging.

Have a story of your own? Write with us! Our community thrives on diverse voices — let’s hear yours.



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