White House and AAUW Work to Increase Women in STEMSeptember 30, 2011
At a National Science Foundation event on Monday, the White House took a significant step toward advancing women’s and girls’ participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs. AAUW President Carolyn Garfein, Executive Director Linda Hallman, and Director of Public Policy and Government Relations Lisa Maatz attended the event, which featured a speech by first lady Michelle Obama. She spoke about the vital role that women play in advancing America’s economy and global status. “If we’re going to out-innovate and out-educate the rest of the world, we’ve got to open doors for everyone,” she said. “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.”
AAUW’s regional STEM programs were highlighted in the speeches, and we were lauded as one of the administration’s top partners in higher education policy development.
The event followed an announcement the same morning of the Obama administration’s new NSF Career-Life Balance Initiative, which will boost recruitment and retention of women in STEM careers. The initiative is a 10-year plan to improve work-life flexibility for individuals receiving federal grants in STEM research fields and includes provisions such as the ability to delay or suspend federal grants for parental leave or to accommodate the birth or adoption of a child.
With this initiative, the NSF will make a huge dent in the environmental and social barriers that currently face women entering STEM careers. AAUW’s Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics research report found that women academics and researchers in STEM fields are much more likely than men to end or change their careers due to the lack of career-life balance support provided by the typically male-dominated fields. As the leading source of federal grants for technology development in the United States, the NSF has extensive power to encourage women to enter the STEM arena and, once there, to provide them with the support they need to excel in both their careers and lives.
AAUW is proud to partner with the Obama administration and the NSF in implementing such a significant program, and we encourage other organizations, universities, and businesses to develop work-life balance initiatives that will boost women’s critical participation in STEM programs across the United States.
This post was written by AAUW Public Policy Fellow Katie Donlevie.