Taviare Hawkins, PhD, joined St. Catherine University in January as math and sciences divison chair and physics professor. Photo by Michelle Mullowney '17.
In 2017-18, National Center for Education Statistics data reported that only 14% of STEM bachelor’s degrees were conferred on women who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). That same year, even fewer — 11% — held jobs in science and engineering, according to the National Science Foundation. 
Taviare Hawkins, PhD, St. Catherine University division chair of math and sciences and physics professor, spoke about this chronic underrepresentation of women of color in STEM fields in a Q&A by American Institute of Physics publication Physics Today.
For a time in her career, Hawkins shared, she declined to give school talks about her career as a Black woman scientist. “I didn’t want to be pigeonholed,” she said. Eventually, however, she “realized that not giving those talks, and not allowing [BIPOC] kids to see themselves as people who may go into science or become teachers, was not bringing my whole self to work.”
“St. Kate’s is a good incubator for women in STEM,” Hawkins said. Discussing her rich and varied career — which has ranged from astronomy to human-computer interfacing to biophysics — Hawkins emphasized how crucial it is to “meet students where they are and get them to see that they can get where they need to be” to combat the underrepresentation of BIPOC women scientists, providing mentorship and exposure to students interested in pursuing STEM careers.
“[W]hen I went to pick up my daughter from school, I ran into two African American girls in the hallway. And one of them said, ‘Can I give you a hug?’” Hawkins said. “The girl said that from the talk the day before, ‘Now I know I am going to do science too.’”