GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 155-11
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM


KOY, Karen A., Biology, Missouri Western State University, 4525 Downs Drive, Saint Joseph, MO 64507,

Minority recruitment and participation in the earth sciences and other STEM fields is an ongoing issue. Studies have shown that as one travels further up the academic and professional ladders, fewer and fewer of the people there belong to minorities. Introductory classes, including non-major courses, serve as recruiting grounds for earth science students. One way to help entice people into a field is to show them examples of people like them already successful in that area. The representation of minorities to prospective undergraduate students was assessed by reviewing images presented in introductory level earth science textbooks. Images of active participants in earth sciences are overwhelmingly represented as white, with a slightly uneven split between male and female. The most even female-male distribution can be seen in images of students. Images of professionals (for example, older adults working in a lab or mine) are overwhelmingly male. Images which include tourists or people simply being near geologic features (with no evidence of geologic activity) are also mostly white-presenting, usually a mix of genders and ages. Victims of disasters, such as earthquakes or floods, are dominantly shown to be people of color, with a mix of genders and ages. This shows a massive deficit in representation of professional people of color and women among earth scientists, and a severe underrepresentation of people of color anywhere within earth science education. While this may simply reflect the ethnic and gender makeup of the field, it also serves to discourage minority students from considering the earth sciences as an area in which they can be professionally or academically successful.