To complement data gleaned from an exhaustive literature search, the committee worked closely with NASEM’s Roundtable on Black Men and Black Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine to conduct structured interviews about their lived experiences. Their testimonials “add context to the data and add complexity that is oftentimes just not seen in raw numbers”, says Wilson. Although he has served on many committees, he says that the report is the first document he’s seen that includes these types of interviews. “It was a learning experience for me,” he says. “I think it’s a very powerful tool.”

The committee began meeting before a wave of legislation by some US states seeking to clamp down on diversity initiatives and the inclusion in university curricula of the topic of racism. In addition, reports show that although the number of DEI roles created to help companies and institutions achieve a balanced workforce increased by 50% following the murder of George Floyd — a Black man who was killed in an encounter with police in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 2020 — the attrition rate of those roles had risen to as high as 33% by the end of last year. Abby Ray, vice-president of marketing and communications at oSTEM, a national non-profit organization based in Grandville, Michigan, that advocates for people from sexual and gender minorities in science, says that such efforts underscore the need to keep pushing for change. “It is essential,” they say, “that we continue to uplift those individuals who have historically been oppressed and deliberately excluded from STEMM fields.”