The Problem

In the past 10 years, job positions in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) have grown at three times the speed of Non-STEM jobs. This trend is projected to continue for the next ten years, and American universities aren’t producing enough qualified graduates to meet the demand. To remain competitive in global markets, America must expand its workforce of capable STEM professionals.

Women make up 57% of American college graduates, but account for less than 25% of STEM workers. Black professionals make up 11% of U.S. workers but represent only 9% of STEM workers, while Hispanic professionals make up 16% of U.S. workers, but only represent 7% of all STEM workers. STEM researchers agree that bolstering the number of women and racially diverse professionals in STEM would increase our nation’s pool of workers, improve diversity in the field, and potentially solve overlooked problems. So why are there so few female and racially diverse workers in STEM?

Students and STEM

Before age 12, both girls and boys show an equal interest in STEM topics. In elementary school, 66% of girls and 68% percent of boys report liking science. In middle school, however, girls’ confidence and interest in STEM plummets- despite demonstrating abilities equal to their male counterparts. This discrepancy is due to outdated stereotypes, unconscious bias, and the subsequent misguided perceptions young women internalize about themselves.  By eighth grade, girls are only half as interested in STEM as male students.

Additionally, black and hispanic students are often underserved when it comes to STEM exposure in curriculum in schools, and after school programming initiatives across Richmond Public Schools and the tri-county area, the population of students Full STEAM Ahead aims to reach.

STEM professionals from underserved racial backgrounds consider major reasons for the underrepresentation of blacks and Hispanics in STEM occupations to be limited access to quality education, discrimination in recruitment or promotions, and a lack of encouragement to pursue these jobs from an early age.

Full STEAM Ahead

Full STEAM Ahead is an exciting part of Code VA’s initiative to integrate Computer Science in Virginian classrooms. Our mission is to empower and enrich middle school students in their pursuit of STEAM. Our program complements CodeVA’s emphasis on integrating CS with the arts to increase participation by broadening access. We envision a world where students have the confidence, resources, and support they need to blast Full STEAM Ahead!

Research suggests that in addition to support from parents and teachers, the best way to keep students involved in STEM is to encourage and expose them to activities and role models from the industries. We expand participatory pathways for middle schoolers by offering choices of hands-on workshops led by diverse professionals currently working in their fields. During workshops, our role models synthesize disciplines and creativity through STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics.


Studies have shown that students engaged in a meaningful arts education benefit with higher SAT scores in reading, language, and math, as well as stronger abilities in analytical thinking, reasoning, and social competencies… Not to mention, a higher motivation to learn!  Through the inclusion of the arts, our students build the toolboxes they need to be the innovators of tomorrow.

Full STEAM Ahead’s goal is to inspire students with a real world perspective on their studies focused on critical thinking, problem solving, and interdisciplinary collaboration. As part of a larger initiative, we are able to direct our students towards continued engagement opportunities in STEM, STEAM, and Computer Science.