Cover: First Steps Toward Improving DoD STEM Workforce Diversity

First Steps Toward Improving DoD STEM Workforce Diversity

Response to the 2012 Department of Defense STEM Diversity Summit

Published Nov 11, 2013

by Nelson Lim, Abigail Haddad, Dwayne M. Butler, Kate Giglio


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Appendix C: 2012 DoD STEM Diversity Summit Presentations

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Research Questions

  1. How can DoD begin to better position itself to establish a diverse STEM workforce?
  2. What do demographic trends suggest about DoD's current STEM workforce?
  3. What are DoD and partners doing to increase diversity in the STEM workforce and what else can be done?

In FY 2011–2012, leaders from the Executive Branch and the Department of Defense (DoD) offered directives and guidance intended to increase diversity across all federal agencies. In response, the DoD Research and Engineering Enterprise and DoD's Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity held a two-day summit in November 2012 on improving diversity within the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce. This report supports the efforts of the DoD STEM Diversity Summit by providing suggestions for future research, analysis, and action. The authors describe policies that discuss the federal government's values and priorities regarding diversity in the federal workforce; offer a closer look at current STEM demographics, including those of the DoD's STEM workforce; discuss current STEM-diversity outreach programs, highlighting the types of data that should be collected in the future; and offer recommendations for DoD leaders to consider as they move forward with their efforts to diversify the STEM workforce.

Key Findings

Department of Defense Diversity Efforts Are Being Driven in Part by Three Assumptions

  • There is a need for talented and innovative STEM workers to meet 21st century global challenges.
  • The nation's demographic makeup is changing and will continue to change.
  • The federal workforce, including DoD, must be inclusive and reflect the demographics of the country it serves.

The United States Is in the Midst of a Major Demographic Shift

  • The nation's population is becoming significantly more Hispanic and less white, non-Hispanic. The significantly lower representation of Hispanics among those with a STEM degree and among those in the STEM workforce presents a major challenge to DoD's efforts to make its STEM workforce racially representative of the nation.
  • The DoD STEM workforce closely parallels the citizen STEM workforce in terms of racial/ethnic composition, indicating that the factors affecting the composition of the overall STEM workforce are also affecting DoD STEM hiring. It may be difficult for DoD to hire a STEM workforce that is significantly more racially diverse than the overall STEM workforce.

Current Department of Defense Efforts to Increase STEM Workforce Diversity

  • The goals and intended participants of DoD STEM outreach activities vary greatly.
  • There is no uniform measurement used to determine how successful these programs are in reaching out to different demographic groups or in achieving other goals.


  • DoD should clearly articulate which aspects of diversity it wishes to prioritize and establish a common set of specific goals to pave the way toward reaching desired outcomes.
  • DoD should work toward coordinating efforts across the organization to reach its STEM-diversity workforce goals. Synchronizing organizational efforts, including the efforts of DoD as well as supporting agencies and external stakeholders, will improve effectiveness and efficiency and reduce costs through program sharing and minimization of overlap.
  • DoD should pursue a managed-change plan of short-term (1-12 months), mid-term (1-3 years), and long-term (4+ years) steps to improve STEM workforce diversity.

The research described in this report was prepared for the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). The research was conducted within the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by OSD, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

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