by Paul Doss – Past Chair, GSA Geology and Public Policy Committee
UPDATE: Two bipartisan bills promoting science and increased involvement of girls and women in the sciences passed the House and the Senate and were signed into law by President Trump on February 27, 2017.
At a time when much of the news from Capitol Hill about science can seem cloudy, it’s nice to hear about positive developments that are seeing the light of day. Two bipartisan bills promoting science and increased involvement of girls and women in the sciences have passed the House and the Senate, and were presented to the President on February 16, 2017, for his signature.
H.R.255, Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act, was introduced by Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT-5) and “amends the Science and Engineering Equal Opportunities Act to authorize the National Science Foundation to encourage its entrepreneurial programs to recruit and support women to extend their focus beyond the laboratory and into the commercial world.” The impetus for the measure is straightforward in the bill, citing that less than 25 percent of the workforce in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professions is women, despite women making up more than half of the US workforce. Further, only 26 percent of women who attain degrees in STEM fields work in STEM jobs. Good news indeed if the measure can attract more girls and women into STEM fields.
Another measure, H.R.321, Inspiring the Next Space Pioneers, Innovators, Researchers, and Explorers (INSPIRE) Women Act, was introduced by Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA-10). This bill tasks the Administrator of NASA to “encourage women and girls to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, pursue careers in aerospace, and further advance the Nation’s space science and exploration efforts…” A primary element in this bill is to “facilitate and support … early career female astronauts, scientists, engineers, and innovators, to engage with K–12 female STEM students and inspire the next generation of women to consider participating in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and to pursue careers in aerospace.” There’s nothing more inspiring for our students of science than to engage with someone in the trenches. If a female scientist can help to open the eyes of, and motivate, more female science students, everyone benefits!