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Hirono Proposes New Investments for STEM Career Opportunities

July 4, 2021, 9:33 AM HST
* Updated July 4, 7:36 AM
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Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) introduced her plan to improve opportunities for women and minorities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

“Amid growing global economic competition, the United States cannot afford to ignore the barriers women and minorities face in pursuing STEM education and careers,” Senator Hirono said. “These two bills would make key investments to unlock new pathways for women and people of color to pursue STEM education and careers and harness America’s diversity to meet the economic challenges of the 21st century.”

The legislation includes two bills: the STEM Opportunities Act (S. 2224) and the Women and Minorities in STEM Booster Act (S. 2217).

STEM Opportunities Act:

This bill would provide funding for guidance, research, data collection, and other activities to promote opportunities for women and minorities in STEM at colleges and universities and federal science agencies. It would also mandate more data collection to better understand who receives federal grants, clarify guidance for grant reviewers to minimize the effects of implicit bias, and create federal grants to promote research-based recruitment and retention practices for minority faculty and students at institutions of higher education. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) introduced the House companion, which passed the House earlier this year.

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The legislation is cosponsored by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nevada), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.),

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The STEM Opportunities Act is endorsed by the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT), American Astronomical Society (AAS), American Chemical Society (ACS), American Geophysical Union (AGU), American Mathematical Society (AMS), American Physical Society (APS), American Physiological Society (APS), American Political Science Association (APSA), American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB), American Society for Microbiology (ASM), American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET), AnitaB.org, Carnegie Mellon University Graduate Student Assembly, Computing Alliance of Hispanic-Serving Institutions (CAHSI), Consortium of Social Science Associations (COSSA), Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences (FABBS), Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES), IEEE-USA, MIT Graduate Student Council, State University System of Florida, Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (SVP), and Society of Women Engineers (SWE).

Women and Minorities in STEM Booster Act:

This bill would provide funding for professional development and training, mentoring, and outreach to promote the recruitment and retention of women and minorities in STEM. Under the bill, for example, a college or university could receive a competitive grant to provide graduate or undergraduate internships in STEM, or create programs designed to improve the recruitment or retention of underrepresented faculty in STEM. Similarly, a nonprofit organization could receive a competitive grant to conduct online workshops focused on STEM, or create programs that allow K-12 students to work alongside STEM professionals to gain practical experience in STEM. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) will lead the House companion.

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The legislation is cosponsored by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), and Jacky Rosen (D-Nevada).

The Women and Minorities in STEM Booster Act is endorsed by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), American Mathematical Society (AMS), Girls, Inc., Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM), and National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

“The STEM workforce has expanded enormously in recent decades, and demand for professionals in these fields is projected to surge in the years ahead. Yet women of color, indeed women in general, remain vastly underrepresented in STEM careers. Without a robust and diverse STEM workforce, the U.S. will be unable to remain globally competitive. But we need to remove the barriers and biases that keep women out – or push them out once they get there,” Kim Churches, CEO of the American Association of University Women, said. “We applaud Representative Carolyn Maloney and Senator Mazie Hirono for introducing the Women and Minorities in STEM Booster Act of 2021 to tackle these issues. By creating programs to open doors for underrepresented populations, this law will help to lay the groundwork for a more welcoming and inclusive STEM workforce in the years ahead.”

“Girls and students of color face significant barriers to accessing meaningful STEM opportunities, which must be addressed at the policy level,” Stephanie J. Hull, Ph.D., Girls Inc. President and CEO said. “The Women and Minorities in STEM Booster Act would provide much-needed support to encourage young people’s STEM interests and abilities, and inspire them to embrace these careers as viable options for the future. This legislation has the potential to advance equity in the workplace and reduce income inequality for women. We are proud to support the STEM Booster Act and applaud Representative Carolyn Maloney and Senator Mazie Hirono for their leadership.”

“The opportunities and personal impact from K-12 mathematics is unacceptable to many, especially for women and underrepresented groups,” Dr. Trena Wilkerson, President of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, said. “Our collective and coordinated attention is needed to increase access and support and to assure that the actions and cultures of our mathematics and STEM programs, at all levels, are transformed to welcome, embrace, support and value women and marginalized individuals. The STEM Booster Act works across multiple levels from professional development, to leadership development, to increasing representation and role models in education. NCTM appreciates the attention to this critical work and supports the leadership and vision of Representative Maloney and Senator Hirono through the STEM Booster Act.”

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