Ben Franklin, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, icons of American innovation, are white men – like nearly all the legendary figures in the pantheon of American inventors. Focusing only on their stories marginalizes the contributions of women and people of color.

But as communications professor Anjali Vats explains, this disservice to history is only part of the problem. Proportionately fewer women and people of color go into science, technology, engineering and math fields than white men, and those who do pursue those careers invent and patent at lower rates. One reason is lack of imagination. Vats argues that society needs to find new ways to tell stories about inventors.

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Also today:

Eric Smalley

Science and Technology Editor

Thomas Edison remains the poster child of American invention 89 years after his death. Underwood & Underwood via the Library of Congress

The iconic American inventor is still a white male – and that’s an obstacle to race and gender inclusion

Anjali Vats, Boston College

The story of the invention in America typically features larger-than-life caricatures of white men like Thomas Edison while largely ignoring the contributions of women and people of color.

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