Fostering diversity and multicultural inclusion in STEM majors is one of the most problematic areas on the today’s business and academic agendas (Barzilai, 2005). Duerstock and Shingledecker (2014) argue that the practice shows that attracting culturally diverse interns to the professional and educational fields is an effective approach to cultivating equitable working environments. Although a number of informative studies have been conducted to analyze theoretical perspectives of the problem, brining cultural diversity to the workplaces is still practically and conceptually impoverished, especially in the public segment of economy (Ross, 1985).
The scholars and the practitioners unanimously agree on the idea that cultural egalitarianism should not be viewed as a matter of public policy, but a part of business strategy, which is especially conducive to growing innovation (Bennett, 1998). Among the different advantages of these programs are attractions of the best academic talents, and improved interaction with the global audiences.
The purpose of this literature review is to examine successful cultural diversity promotion strategies and cultural inclusion initiatives in the context of implementing such programs. It specifically focuses on successful experience of implementing projects with similar goals, and on the analysis of the most essential barriers and hurdles to the program execution.
Successful Cases of Implementing Cultural Diversity Internship Programs
The importance of making STEM majors culturally and ethnically diverse have been emphasized by many commentators both in the USA and internationally (O’Brien et al, 2015). Moreover, due to the growing social significance of the phenomenon, several efficient projects worth analyzing have already been implemented.
O’Brien and his associates (2015) wrote that the academic staff of the New York State University published several research studies, arguing that disproportional cultural, gender and ethnic representation in the STEM classes. By 2005, those classes were almost exclusively dominated by the white male Americans. A popular prejudice among the senior academics was that racial minorities and females were more interested in arts, humanities and social sciences. However, several surveys administered in 2006 revealed that a significant portion of potential students considered enrolling on engineering and scientific courses, but many of them were pressurized by the academic bigotry and elitist culture.
As a response, the State University of New York established the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI). This institution develops and manages yearly projects aimed at maintaining a culturally equitable learning environment. Because of the office endeavors, the admission process has been substantially modified.
Furthermore, ODEI is proactive in working with the private sector, ensuring that all internships are distributed proportionally between the students. In particular, the companies, which cooperate with the University, invite an internship interview on the basis of a written test task, where the particulars of an applicant are always encrypted
As a leading STEM internships provider in the USA, the IBM has one of the most sophisticated frameworks for ensuring culturally diverse learning environment for its interns (Forbes Insights). The professionals, who evaluate completed test assignments of the internship applicants, know neither their names, nor ethnic or cultural backgrounds, thus everyone has the chance to be invited for interview. Each panel of interviewers must have a woman, and two racially different professionals. This approach is effective in fighting bias and racial/gender prejudices during the interviews.
Barriers and Obstacles
Today’s research shows that there are several important barriers to cultural diversity and inclusion in the workplace (Barzilai, 2005; Ross, 1985). Analyzing them is effective for making internship programs culturally and ethnically harmonious.
Bennet commented that stereotype is an assumption made by people about innate, irremediable characteristics of a cultural segment (2014). Many assumptions are offensive; some of them are rude (Barzilae, 2005). Thus, removing stereotypes should be enshrined in into well-coordinated, purposeful and proactive policies
Under ethnocentric way of thinking the one should understand judging social groups in accordance with the values and standards of one’s own group. Many analysts inferred that ethnocentrism leads not only to insurmountable barriers in communication between the employees or interns with different ethnic backgrounds, but also it reduces morale and productivity (O’Brien et al, 1985).
Barzilai, G. (2005). Communities and law: politics and cultures of legal identities. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Bennett, D. (1998). Multicultural states rethinking difference and identity. London New York: Routledge.
Duerstock, B. & Shingledecker, C. (2014). From college to careers: fostering inclusion of persons with disabilities in STEM. Science, 344(6185), pp.765-765.
Forbes Insights. Global diversity and inclusion fostering innovation through a diverse workforce, available at http://www.fitnyc.edu/images/content/cfmm_Innovation_Through_Diversity.pdf
O’Brien, L., Blodorn, A., Adams, G., Garcia, D. and Hammer, E. (2015). Ethnic variation in gender-STEM stereotypes and STEM participation: An intersectional approach. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 21(2), pp.169-180.
Ross, R.G. (1985). Developing policies and procedures: getting an internship program started, A paper presented at the1985 Central States Speech Communication Association Convention, Indianapolis, Indiana