Rooted in Science scholarship way for beauty to help Black students’ access STEM

By Ravyn Cullor contact

- Last updated on GMT

According to the Pew Research Center, only around 9% of those in STEM jobs are Black. © Getty Images - Tony Anderson
According to the Pew Research Center, only around 9% of those in STEM jobs are Black. © Getty Images - Tony Anderson

Related tags: Scholarship, Education, STEM, Research and development, P&g, Innovation

The Rooted in Science scholarship from UNCF, Gold Series by Pantene and Royal Oils by Head and Shoulders has returned for a second year to directly invest in Black students’ access to STEM and careers in the field after college.

The scholarship will distribute $1 million over five years to Black students studying STEM, as well as offer mentorship from Black scientists, Ashley Taylor, senior scientist for product research haircare at P&G, working on Pantene's Gold Series and Head and Shoulders’ Royal Oils, told CosmeticsDesign.

Taylor said Gold Series and Royal Oils are looking to reverse the trends of underrepresentation of Black professionals in STEM, who currently make up around 9% of STEM jobs according to the Pew Research Center​.

“Today we know that this gap exists before they show up to their jobs,”​ Taylor said. “While Black college students are pursuing these STEM classes, and they're taking the steps to get into these career opportunities at an accelerated pace, they're also leaving at a much higher rate than their peers, and this is primarily driven by lack of resources or exposure to STEM opportunities or options and even the feelings of not belonging.”

This year CVS Beauty has also joined the scholarship. Taylor said the buy-in from brands and retailers is important because it shows both that there is investment in closing the racial gap in science outside of individuals and that there is a commitment to bringing Black scientists into the lab where the products for Black consumers are developed. 

This year Rooted in Science will award 20 students with $10,000 grants over two years as well as mentorship from Black scientists. Taylor said it’s important for the students to have mentorship not just to guide them through the STEM world, but so they can see people like them in the field.

Having been a Black student in STEM who didn’t see many Black scientists, particularly in the beauty industry, Taylor said it’s exciting to fill that role for current students and see a commitment from Gold Series and Royal Oils not just to give money, but to make sure the recipients have a better chance at in staying in the field.

The under-representation of Black scientists can be reflected specifically in the cosmetics world, Taylor said, with historically limited choices for multicultural hair products. By CVS joining the scholarship this year, along with two of P&G's Black hair care lines, she said the companies are showing not only a commitment to closing the STEM gap but also to having products for Black consumers on their shelves. 

Taylor said the scholarship coming back for a second year, as well as the addition of CVS, are both shows of the program's success.

“We're here because we want to close this racial gap in STEM,”​ Taylor said. “I was that student who didn't have people who looked like me around me and to now be in a space where I can help innovate, I can help and push other students to get to this space is very exciting.”

Applications​ for the grant are due by March 7.

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