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Hirono, Strickland, Brown Lead Colleagues in Introducing Legislation to Promote Diversity in STEM

~ Legislation would authorize funding for programs to increase the recruitment and retention of women and underrepresented minorities in STEM fields ~

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), and U.S. Representatives Marilyn Strickland (D-WA) and Shontel Brown (D-OH) led 20 of their colleagues in reintroducing the bicameral Women and Underrepresented Minorities in STEM Booster Act of 2024, legislation to create new federal grants for programs focused on professional development, training, mentoring, and outreach activities of women and minorities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

“Diversity is something that should be celebrated and championed in every field, including STEM fields,” said Senator Hirono. “Building more diverse pipelines into science and engineering careers is critical to developing creative solutions to many of the biggest challenges we face today. By creating grants specifically focused on outreach and support to women and other underrepresented communities, this bill will promote diversity in STEM fields and help ensure our country benefits from the talent and innovation of a diverse STEM workforce.”

“Women and minorities across STEM fields often face obstacles and inequality in many stages of their careers,” said Representative Strickland (D-WA). “This bill will help ensure that high-wage STEM jobs are more accessible to historically under-represented communities.”

“Racism, sexism, and bias don’t just hurt individuals, they hold our country back. So much talent is squandered because we don’t encourage and invest in women and minorities,” said Representative Brown (D-OH). “As we work to build a more equitable society overall, we also need to boost our efforts to encourage the next generation to work in STEM fields. I’m proud to co-lead the Women and Underrepresented Minority in STEM Booster Act with Congresswoman Strickland and Senator Hirono, because it’s time to nurture the talents of every American.”

Women, racial minorities, LGBTQ+ people, and people with disabilities remain largely underrepresented in the STEM workforce in the U.S.—a result of barriers these groups face in pursuing a career in these fields. Members of these groups also face obstacles that cause them to leave STEM professions at higher rates than their white, non-LGBTQ+ counterparts. According to a report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), teams consisting of individuals with diverse identities and backgrounds innovate at higher rates than that of teams without such diversity. Without dismantling the policies and practices that disadvantage these groups, the STEM workforce stands to lose much needed innovation and must heed the urgent call to improve opportunities to recruit and retain women and minorities in STEM fields.

In short, the legislation would authorize the National Science Foundation to provide grants for activities like:

  • Online workshops;
  • Mentoring programs that partner STEM professionals with students;
  • Internships for undergraduate and graduate students in STEM;
  • Outreach programs providing elementary and secondary school students with opportunities to increase their exposure to STEM fields; and
  • Programs to increase recruitment and retention of underrepresented faculty.

In addition to Senator Hirono and Representatives Strickland and Brown, this legislation is cosponsored by Senators Alex Padilla (D-CA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bob Casey (D-PA), Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Laphonza Butler (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV), and Representatives Steve Cohen (D-TN), Yvette Clark (D-NY), Dwight Evans (D-PA), Judy Chu (D-CA), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Darren Soto (D-FL), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Deborah Ross (D-NC), Joyce Beatty (D-OH), Raul M. Grijalva (D-AZ).

This legislation is endorsed by the American Association of University Women (AAUW).

The full text of the legislation is available here.

Senator Hirono is committed to improving opportunities for women and minorities in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). In March 2023, Senator Hirono introduced a bipartisan resolution designating March 24, 2023 as “National Women of Color in Tech Day” to highlight the numerous important contributions women of color have made to the technology sector in the United States and to acknowledge the challenges that many women of color have faced, and continue to face in the technology field. More recently, on April 5, 2023, she led a letter with 15 colleagues asking Senate appropriators to provide strong funding for National Science Foundation programs that broaden participation in STEM in FY2024.