skip to main content

Title: Unpacking Latent Diversity This theory paper explores how diversity apart from social identities like race and gender is framed in the engineering education literature and how these concepts promote a different but compatible approach to understanding diversity—latent diversity. Latent diversity is a new approach to diversity work that captures underlying affective and cognitive differences that provide potential sources for innovation but are not visible. This approach does not examine other non-visible social identities like sexual orientation, first-generation status, socioeconomic status, etc. Prior literature suggests that diversity in approaches, problem solving, and ways of thinking improve innovation in engineering design more reliably than does diversity along the lines of age, race, gender, etc. However, the process of enculturating students into engineering through engineering curriculum often creates homogeneity in students’ approaches to problems, ways of thinking, and attitudes. In this paper, I explore a limited set of existing research on diversity from these underlying perspectives including identities, alternative ways of thinking and being, motivation, cognitive diversity, and innovation and creativity. This work synthesizes the findings of these studies to paint a rich picture of how students develop different attitudes and skills to navigate their paths within engineering. Additionally, this work provides an evidence-based argument for more » the importance of recognizing and understanding latent diversity to promote a more inclusive environment in engineering and recruit, educate, retain, and graduate more innovative and diverse engineers. This paper opens the conversation about a new, but complementary, focus for developing a STEM workforce rich in talent and capable of adapting to the changing STEM landscape. « less
Award ID's:
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation