Studies commissioned by OP-TEC in 2009 and 2012 (Hull, Illick, & Ruggiere, 2009, 2012) reveal that the photonics technician workforce is predominately white and male. Although the studies reflect significant increases in gender and ethnic diversity over the periods of study, the results show there is still much work to be done, especially in gender diversity.
- 61% of the employed photonics technicians are white; 14% are Hispanic; 4% are Black/African American; 18% are Asian & 3% are categorized as “other.”
- Only 19% of employed photonics technicians are female.
While minority photonics workers exceed the national average (NSF, 2013) for the U.S. science and engineering workforce (approximately 39% vs. 28%), women as photonics technicians are falling behind (19% vs. 27%).
The 2012 OP-TEC study also indicates that U.S. employers need an estimated 1,500 new photonics technicians. 80% of responding employers indicated a need for additional photonics technicians and over half of the survey respondents (employers) would prefer to hire technicians with associate degrees. Currently, U.S. two-year degree programs in photonics and optics are estimated to only be producing approximately 280-300 new graduates per year. Clearly, we are not recruiting and retaining enough photonics students in our colleges, and a significant growth of female students would not only improve the gender balance, but would also provide more photonics technicians to satisfy employer demand for new workers.
So, how can colleges recruit more women and minorities into photonics technician programs? We have searched for resources to address short-term and long-term strategies. Short-term (immediate) strategies involve efforts in high school and college to encourage and motivate women to enter and succeed in science and technology programs. Longer-term strategies include activities for elementary and middle school girls to develop and nurture their interest and abilities in science and technology.
OP-TEC is also currently collaborating with its partners to identify best practices for the recruitment and retention of female and minority students into technician education programs.
The Resource Links provided below have been identified through these ongoing research processes. OP-TEC will continue to expand its diversity efforts and will be updating this page as new resources are identified and/or produced.
If you would like to suggest a resource for inclusion on our page, please contact us!
Diversity Efforts – Resource Links:
Institute for Women in Trades, Technology & Science (IWITTS)
IWITTS mission is to provide training, e-strategies, publications and technical assistance nationally to the education system and employers to integrate women into technology and law enforcement careers in which they are underrepresented. IWITTS offers 2-day National WomenTech Train the Trainer Educators Workshops and webinars that present proven recruitment and retention strategies and the latest research findings.
Collaborative for Gender Equity
Partnership between staff at CORD (www.cord.org) and Moraine Valley Community College’s Center for Systems Security and Information Assurance (www.cssia.org). This program is designed to dispel myths about girls’ abilities in science and technology, provide the tools for mentoring programs to take root, disseminate information about high-tech careers and the coursework needed to succeed in them, and foster the development of a classroom culture conducive to gender equity.
Minorities and Women in OSA
The Minorities and Women in OSA is an important networking resource dedicated to providing OSA member communities with focused educational and networking opportunities, career support, and grant information. Profiles of female OSA fellows and interviews with up-and-coming women in optics. The website also has a great “New & Resources” page.
OSA’s online job postings, consultant resume bank, and career resources.
Lighten Up! Resource Guide for Girls ages 11-15 (OSA Foundation & Girl Scouts)
Joint project between Girl Scouts & OSA Foundation. Guides available for free download!
Optics for Kids:
A website devoted to optics – just for kids! Information for students and parents as well! Check out the “Optics Celebs” page for a great collection of bios on optics professionals and their careers.
SPIE Women in Optics
Promotes personal and professional growth for women through community building, networking opportunities and encouraging young women to choose optics as a career. Be sure and check out their career videos and their new Women in Optics 2013-2014 Monthly Planner!
SPIE – Free Videos & CDs:
SPIE has developed some great videos and CDs to help with photonics education outreach and career awareness efforts.
SPIE – Free Posters:
SPIE offers free public awareness career posters including Women in Optics – Imagine!
SPIE – Hands-On Optics Activities:
Optics activities for middle school students intended for afterschool and Saturday programs.
National Science Foundation. (2013). Women, Minorities, and Persons With Disabilities in Science and Engineering. NSF Division of Science Resources, NSF 13-304 Arlington, VA.
Hull D.M., Illich, P., & Ruggiere, P. (2009). Photonics Technician Employment in the United States: An Industry Survey of Current and Future Demand in 2009 for Education and Training Programs. Waco, TX: OP-TEC.
Illich, P., Hull, D.M., & Ruggier, P. (2012). Industry Demand for Two-Year College Graduates in Optics and Photonics Technology: An Industry Survey of Current and Future Demand for Two-Year Degreed Photonics Technicians. Waco, TX: UCF/OP-TEC.