August 04, 2016

Hirono Convenes National Experts, Hears from Educators & Students, on Growing Hawaii’s STEM Pipeline

At Maui Field Hearing, Hirono Focuses on Expanding Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math Opportunities for Women, Minorities

KAHULUI- Senator Mazie K. Hirono today chaired a Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee hearing at Maui High School on increasing opportunities for women, minorities, and other underrepresented groups in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.

Senator Hirono heard from national experts at the National Science Foundation, the Small Business Administration and the Office of Naval Research – as well as Maui Economic Development Board Vice President Leslie Wilkins and University of Hawaii Maui College Chancellor Lui Hokoana–  about programs in Hawaii that introduce students to STEM careers. Senator Hirono also heard testimony from two successful students from Hawaii who participated in these programs.

“Hawaii and the country have a great opportunity to build a 21st-century economy that will create hundreds of thousands of high paying jobs,” said Senator Hirono. “But we will not succeed in harnessing the talents of all Americans without addressing the barriers women and minorities face in pursuing STEM careers, including in the small business sector. Today’s hearing was a great opportunity to examine how we can continue to grow Hawaii’s STEM pipeline and to ensure small businesses and entrepreneurs have the resources they need to succeed.”

"Unfortunately, there still is a gender gap when you look at some of these high paying technical career fields. We want to make sure that excited young women and minorities pursue studies in the STEM fields because we know they have lots of talent and ability, but sometimes they’re not even told about these opportunities,” said State Senator Roz Baker. “If we can engage them through our Women in Technology program sponsored by the Maui Economic Development Board and increase STEM exploration programs in all our schools, then we'll be able to attract more girls and minority students to these fields and ultimately to higher paying jobs."

“It’s important to bring Capitol Hill to the community. The hearings in D.C. feature professional experts, where they discuss the issues in-depth. But, the real work of bringing in more women and minorities into STEM fields is done every day in our schools in our rural communities, across the country. Changing culture, building self-esteem; Given the tools, they can do anything. They can advance our nation’s innovation and they can compete globally,” said Leslie Wilkins, Maui Economic Development Board Vice President, Women in Technology Program Director. “To hear from these federal experts and to have Senator Hirono honor their best practices, which is happening right here in Maui County and across the state of Hawaii, validates the work we’re doing and allows us to show our work to the nation.” 

“I applaud Senator Hirono and the Committee for holding a hearing on this very important topic and for her appreciation for the need for Hawaii and our nation to continue to invest in long-term, fundamental, and game changing research to keep us competitive. With robust, sustained support for research and education in both the executive and legislative branches, as well as partnerships such as those on display here in Hawaii, NSF contributes to the protection of our national security, the continued development of our workforce, and the enhancement of our economic prosperity,” said Dr. Sylvia James, National Science Foundation Directorate for Education and Human Resources Division of Human Resource Development Director.

Witnesses included:

Dr. Walter Jones, Office of Naval Research Executive Director

Dr. Sylvia James, National Science Foundation Directorate for Education and Human Resources Division of Human Resource Development Director

Ms. Jane A. Sawyer, U.S. Small Business Administration Hawaii District Office Director

Ms. Leslie Wilkins, Maui Economic Development Board Vice President, Women in Technology Program Director

Ms. Audrey S.C. Cabrera, P.E., Brown and Caldwell

Dr. Lui Hokoana, University of Hawaii Maui College Chancellor

Ms. Sarah A. Jenkins, Student at Duke University from Kaunakakai, HI

Ms. Lily N. Jenkins, Student at Molokai High School

sawyer james jones

Left to right: Jane Sawyer, Dr. Sylvia James, and Dr. Walter Jones discuss the progress their respective federal agencies have made in the hiring of women and minorities.

Hokoana Jenkins Cabrera

Left to right: Jane Sawyer, Dr. Sylvia James, and Dr. Walter Jones discuss the progress their respective federal agencies have made in the hiring of women and minorities.