Bayer Corporation's annual national survey polled department chairs at the top 200 research universities about the under-representation of women, African-Americans, Hispanics, and American Indians in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) majors.
The professors found women to be the most well-prepared group, and under-represented minorities the least. However, women graduate in lesser numbers than white or Asian males, as do even those minorities who are comparably prepared.
Dr. Mae Jemison, the first female African-American astronaut, said, "Something's happening in colleges that's impacting women and minorities." Introductory STEM courses have been used to weed out students who may not have the aptitude for STEM majors, but surveyed professors said that the difficulty may discourage those who lack confidence and role models.
Professors, who are overwhelmingly male, said that they themselves may discourage women and minorities.
Jemison said that some schools are overcoming the obstacles to diversity by changing the introductory courses, by eliminating confidence-eroding situations, by exposing students to role models in their particular group, and by challenging stereotypes.