The Federal Office of Science and Technology Policy working under the Obama-Biden administration is taking a closer look at the lack of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields by creating events and academic resources to address this immense social issue. According to the initiative's website, women who work in STEM fields make 33 percent more than women in other career fields. However, the dearth of women who work in STEM fields could be partially responsible for gender wage gaps and decreased earning potential.
The lack of female representation in STEM fields can have even greater impacts on our nation's ability to compete in a global marketplace. As First Lady Michelle Obama states, "We need all hands on deck, and that means clearing hurdles for women and girls as they navigate careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.”
Getting the Facts Out There
The White House has partnered with a number of government and academic institutions to get a clear picture regarding the presence of female STEM employees and students. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, only 24% of the current STEM workforce is comprised of women. If you trace the numbers back to high school and college, you'll find that boys outnumber girls when it comes to AP mathematics course enrollment numbers. Once women reach college, only 31% of STEM degrees are conferred to women.
Now that these national metrics are easy to access, the White House is calling on academic institutions to step up and create more inclusive environments for girls and women to explore the STEM fields. The White House has compiled a list of resources that address college readiness, engagement opportunities, mentoring, Title IX compliance and workplace flexibility for increased female STEM support.
The federal initiative for the increased representation of women in STEM has lead to an increase in academic programs for K-12 students. Here are a few organizations that are leading school-based opportunities for girls who want get involved with STEM activities:
- U.S Department of Energy: This federal organization is responsible for hosting numerous activities, such as Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day and the Young Women in Science Program.
- The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA): Their G.I.R.L.S. online summer mentorship program connects middle school students with women who work with NASA in science and math courses.
- The Equal Futures Partnership: The White House has partnered up with multiple countries to increase female representation in the workforce. The Girls emPower app is dedicated to helping students learn more about female government leaders and the importance of political participation.
- Google's Global Science Fair: Every year, Google hosts a science fair for students ages 13 - 18 who wish to showcase their work to an international audience. President Obama has personally greeted previous years' winners, releasing a video to highlight the achievements of women in STEM fields.
If you're interested in becoming a STEM mentor yourself, take a look at this toolkit created by the Corporation for National & Community Service. It addresses local resources that can aid you in your mentorship endeavors, team-building processes, goal setting and reporting.
Employer Awareness and Legal Compliance
The National Institute of Health and the National Science Foundation have been working on policies to make workplaces that are more inclusive to balancing family life. U.S. professionals shouldn't have to choose between their careers or supporting their families. These policies can lead to more supportive environments, where parents can pursue their careers of choice without facing unreasonable time or location expectations from STEM employers.
Several national offices and employers are also stepping up to the plate to ensure Title IX compliance. NASA has released a guide to its promises and administrative practices to women working in STEM fields, addressing the organization's obligations under Title IX, the self-evaluation process, recruitment, retention and outreach procedures. Hopefully, these organizations will set a global example of gender non-discrimination and awareness for other STEM employers.
The statistics so far reveal that our nation still has an uphill journey when it comes to equal gender representation in STEM fields. However, The White House is taking some incredibly important and necessary steps in raising awareness in classrooms and workplaces around the world.