50K Coalition Founders Call for Increased Diversity Amid DEI Rollbacks

For the first time in our nation’s history, more than 50,000 minorities and women received undergraduate engineering degrees in an academic year, according to a newly released Impact Report from The 50K Coalition. The goal was reached in 2023, two years ahead of the organization’s 2025 target date.

Despite this achievement, significant disparities remain and much more needs to be done to remove barriers and create pathways for underrepresented engineering students and professionals, according to the report. The 50K Coalition will discuss the report’s finding via a virtual symposium – “Engineering a Brighter Future” – on Monday, Feb. 19 at 12:00 p.m. EST. For more information, click here.

The report comes amid the current rollback of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts in academic and corporate environments. Recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions ending affirmative action in higher education and denying student loan relief are raising the barriers to STEM degree attainment for many underrepresented students who hail from low-income, underserved communities. This growing imbalance of representation in the engineering field creates consequences that would harm our nation’s future economic competitiveness, our quality of life, and our national security.

The 50K Coalition – an alliance of the nation’s preeminent engineering societies, educational institutions, and other partners – was founded in 2015 by the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), and the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). The group includes more than 60 diversity engineering organizations, academic institutions, and corporations committed to increasing diverse representation in engineering.

The group’s efforts focus on four key areas: 1) fortifying undergraduate support and retention, 2) strengthening linkages between community college and four-year engineering programs, 3) supporting K-12 students with math and science education, and 4) fostering an inclusive culture and climate within engineering institutions.

“Through the 50K Coalition, we've seen the power of what can be achieved when we come together with a shared goal,” said Janeen Uzzell, CEO, National Society of Black Engineers. “The work of reshaping the engineering landscape is a collective effort demanding passion, vision, and collaboration. Broadening participation in engineering is not just about numbers; it's about fostering innovation, enriching our perspectives, and building a future in which everyone has an equal opportunity to shine.”

Disparities Remain

In 2015, the U.S. produced approximately 97,000 engineers per year at the bachelor’s degree level, of which less than 33,000 (34 percent) were minorities and women. In 2020, the number of undergraduate engineering degrees rose to approximately 126,000, with 51,000 (40 percent) being awarded to minorities and women.

While the 50,000 graduates milestone was achieved earlier than the target date, the Coalition acknowledges there is much more to be done. Disparities in educational access and resources remain, as many underrepresented students come from backgrounds where access to quality primary and secondary education and advanced STEM resources is limited.

The result is continued underrepresentation of engineering degrees awarded to women, Hispanics, Blacks, and American Indians. Further, when broken down by cohort, the Impact Report reveals that not all underrepresented groups are experiencing equal increases in the number of engineering bachelor’s degrees earned.

  • From 2015 through 2020, women engineering graduates increased by 55 percent (from 19,588 to 30,326). However, in 2020, women represented 50.4 percent of the U.S. population, yet only accounted for 24 percent of undergraduate engineering degrees awarded.
  • During this same period, Hispanic engineering graduates increased by 72 percent (from 8,737 to 15,603). Yet, in 2020, Hispanics represented 18.7 percent of the population while accounting for 14 percent of engineering degrees awarded.
  • Similarly, Black engineering graduates increased by 34 percent between 2015 and 2020 (from 3,796 to 5,075). While African Americans represented 13.6 percent of the population in 2020, they accounted for only 4.6 percent of engineering degrees.
  • American Indian and Alaska Native engineering graduates saw an increase in degrees earned annually from 2017 to 2018 (from 291 to 350), but the group saw a decrease in degrees earned between 2018 to 2020 (from 350 to 293). In 2020, American Indians and Alaska Natives represented 1.3 percent of the population and accounted for 0.3 percent of engineering degrees awarded.