Legislation would provide opportunities for women and underrepresented minorities
The U.S. Senate passed three proposals introduced by U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) that would make America more competitive by investing in underrepresented groups. The Obama initiatives would increase the participation of women and underrepresented minorities in the professions of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, establish a mentoring program for women and minorities in those fields, and offer competitive state grants to support summer term education programs (based on S. 116, the STEP UP Act, which Obama introduced in January). All were incorporated into the America COMPETES Act that passed the Senate.
"To restore America's competitiveness, we must recruit a new generation of science and technology leaders by investing in diversity," said Senator Obama. "Through mentoring and expanded summer education programs, we can guarantee that all students and professionals have the opportunity to lead America to its next big breakthrough."
As our nation becomes more diverse, scientists, engineers, and technology professionals continue to be recruited from a narrowing segment of our population. If we were able to increase the participation of underrepresented groups, including women, to a level reflective of their representation in the population, we would diminish the workforce issues that restrict our economic progress, and generate a pool of talent that could refresh our ability to innovate. If we do not tap the diversity of our nation as a competitive strength, we will diminish our capacity to innovate. Full participation by all segments of our populace would do more than just increase the number of workers in high technology fields, it would also bring fresh perspectives and inventive solutions.
The Obama Amendments:
* Establish a mentoring program to support women and underrepresented groups as they progress through education programs proposed by the Department of Energy.
* Require that women and minority scientists and engineers be represented and consulted as strategies are developed to increase America's competitiveness, at the proposed National Science and Technology Summit, on the President's Council on Innovation and Competitiveness, and elsewhere.
* Support summer learning opportunities, with curricula that emphasize mathematics and problem solving, by offering competitive state grants to support summer term education programs. Students lose an average of two months or more worth of math facts and skills during the summer, with the largest learning loss affecting children who live in poverty, suffer from learning disabilities, or do not speak English at home.
Obama serves as a member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.