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Hirono, Maloney Mark Women’s History Month By Increasing Opportunity For Women & Minorities In STEM

Legislation Would Support Programs That Increase Interest & Retention In STEM Careers

Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) and Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) today introduced the Women and Minorities in STEM Booster Act, legislation that would provide support to increase the number of women and minorities entering science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.

“Approximately half of the U.S. population and workforce is made up of women, but women make up just over a quarter of the STEM workforce,” said Senator Hirono. “As we honor female pioneers during Women’s History Month, this legislation would support proven programs that increase interest and mentor women and minorities interested in STEM fields, and pave the way for the next generation of women innovators.”

“Our economy continues to create high-paying jobs in STEM fields, yet the pipelines for these careers often under-represent women and minorities. In fact, women hold just 26 percent of STEM jobs, even though they make up nearly half of the workforce,” said Representative Maloney. “I’m proud to introduce the STEM Booster Act, which tackles this challenge through innovative programs to encourage women and minorities to explore STEM subjects, and discover academic and career opportunities so they can translate an interest in science and technology into the credentials they need for 21st century jobs.”

March is also Women’s History Month, and Senator Hirono took to the Senate floor to honor women in STEM such as Dr. Isabella Kauakea Yau Ying Aiona Abbott, who was raised on Maui, went on to become the first Native Hawaiian woman to receive a Ph.D. in science, and remains a leading expert on Pacific algae.

The Women and Minorities in STEM Booster Act would authorize the National Science Foundation to award competitive grants for outreach, mentoring, and professional development programs that support recruitment and retention of women and minorities in STEM fields. The legislation also authorizes funding for STEM education outreach programs at the elementary and secondary school level, and includes an emphasis on funding for mentoring programs, as well as programs to increase the recruitment and retention of women and minority university faculty. Click here to read the bill text.

The legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Martin Henrich (D-NM), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Representatives Madeline Z. Bordallo (D-GU), Matt Cartwright (D-PA), Judy Chu (D-CA), Katherine Clark (D-MA), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), Donna Edwards (D-MD), Chaka Fattah (D-PA), Bill Foster (D-IL), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL), Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Mike Honda (D-CA), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), William R. Keating (D-MA), James R. Langevin (D-RI), Rick Larsen (D-WA), Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH), Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), Charles B. Rangel (D-NY), C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), Tim Ryan (D-OH), Louise Slaghter (D-NY), Mark Takano (D-CA), and Frederica Wilson (D-FL).

The Women and Minorities in STEM Booster Act is supported by the American Association of University Women; Association of Women’s Business Centers; Association of Women in Science; Girl Scouts of the USA; Girls, Inc.; National Action Council for Minority Engineers; National Council of Asian Pacific Americans; National Society for Black Engineers; Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science; Southeast Asia Resource Action Center; Society of Women Engineers; STEMConnector/Million Women Mentors; and Women in Public Policy.

“The Women and Minorities in STEM Booster Act takes a substantive step towards the educational and economic goal of attracting and retaining women and other underrepresented minorities in STEM” said Lisa Maatz, vice president of government relations at the American Association of University Women (AAUW). “When women and minorities are not well represented in these fields, they lose out on high-quality job opportunities. Their absence also exacerbates the country’s critical need for an innovative, high-skilled workforce that can compete in a 21st century global economy. Our nation must make a conscious effort to include women and minorities in all areas of academic achievement, specifically STEM fields.”

“If we think of the STEM workplace environment as the hardware, then mentoring and internships are the software. Programs such as those outlined in the Women and Minorities in STEM Booster Act of 2016 are proven to promote the retention of women and underrepresented minorities across disciplines and employment sectors as AWIS research shows. We applaud Senator Hirono for working to develop and nurture a diverse and agile science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce to secure America’s place as a leader in global innovation,” said Janet Bandows Koster, Executive Director & CEO of the Association for Women in Science. 

“Girls Inc. fully supports the Women and Minorities in STEM Booster Act and applauds Senators Hirono and Gillibrand for their leadership,” said Judy Vredenburgh, Girls Inc. President and CEO. “It's essential for girls to have the knowledge, experiences, and role models to build confidence in STEM and embrace these careers as possibilities for their futures. The STEM Booster Act would provide much-needed support to help more girls unleash their talents in these areas and become the next generation of STEM leaders.”

“With women poised to shape our economic future, and given the significance of STEM in today’s world, it’s more important than ever that we are preparing girls and young women with the skills they will need for a future in STEM. Girl Scouts is proud to support this bill,” said Anna Maria Chávez, CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA.

“The National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA) is proud to support the Women and Minorities in STEM Booster Act to increase diversity in STEM fields. Girls, women, and students of color should be encouraged to pursue STEM careers, and they must have the necessary support to succeed.  This includes Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders—despite stereotypes, some AAPI subgroups are not well represented in STEM fields because of high poverty rates and low rates of educational attainment. This legislation would establish important programs and mentoring opportunities to narrow these gaps, and we thank Senator Hirono, Senator Gillibrand and Congresswoman Maloney for their leadership on this issue,” said NCAPA National Director Christopher Kang. 

“SACNAS (Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science) enthusiastically supports the Women and Minorities Booster Act of 2016 and applauds its sponsors for their efforts. In order to keep our nation competitive in science and engineering, such legislation is essential. As classical Clayton Christensen ‘disruptive thinking’ implies, helping the unserved and underserved—women and underrepresented minorities in STEM in this case—enables the greatest movement forward. SACNAS has over 6,000 paid members and serves a larger constituency of over 18,000—over half of whom are females—with particular emphasis on minorities underrepresented in STEM,” said Robert E. Barnhill, Ph.D, Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science Vice President, Science Policy & Strategic Initiatives.

"STEM industries are found everywhere, spanning everything from biotech to humanitarian relief to robotics, gaming and sports and even the arts and culture. What other career path can claim the variety and flexibility of STEM? Our nation is not only poised to go over a "fiscal cliff," we're just about in freefall over a talent cliff to meet the growing need of STEM jobs. We need STEM leaders in industry to lead with the passion they bring to their businesses to help fill the talent gap! There has never been a more important time to tie diversity and STEM - the key careers are in STEM areas, and the potential that women and minorities have to offer this field is incredible. This legislation has the ability to move the needle for women and minorities in STEM careers,” said Edie Fraser, CEO of STEMconnector®/Million Women Mentors.