U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) helped celebrate Women's History Month today as she spoke at a meeting of the Women's Resource Network at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard about the importance of women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Shaheen underscored the need to attract women to emerging careers in STEM and highlighted the STEM initiatives already underway at the Shipyard.
"Our country's economic competitiveness relies on being a global leader in science and technology. Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is doing its part when it comes to STEM education, but we need to do more, particularly when it comes to women in STEM fields," Shaheen said. "A gender gap exists in STEM - currently, women comprise 48 percent of the U.S. workforce, but just 24 percent of our county's STEM workforce. With jobs in STEM expected to be the fastest growing occupations in the next decade, we must encourage our daughters and granddaughters to take the opportunity to become our next scientists, computer programmers, engineers and mathematicians."
The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is an active member of the STEM outreach community along the seacoast of New Hampshire and Maine, participating in expositions, festivals and demonstrations highlighting STEM activities. During the last three years, the shipyard's STEM outreach program has grown from reaching fewer than 50 students to making a difference for more than 1500 students through group and individualized teaching and mentoring contacts.
During her visit, Shaheen also responded to the Pentagon announcing that unpaid furlough days caused by automatic budget cuts will be reduced from 22 to 14 for Defense Department civilian employees. The furloughs are expected to impact as many as 700,000 federal employees, including thousands at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.
"While I am encouraged by the news that the furloughs have been reduced, 14 days of unpaid leave is still too much," Shaheen said. "Automatic, across-the-board cuts are not a responsible way to address our debt, and forcing our workers to take unpaid leave is a prime example of the negative impact these cuts will have on American workers and the U.S. economy. We need to find a long-term deficit deal that responsibly gets our fiscal house in order while also protecting our workers."
Shaheen has repeatedly called for bipartisan compromise on a long-term deficit deal to replace sequestration. In the event that furloughs cannot be avoided, however, Shaheen added that additional actions must be taken to provide the Pentagon with flexibility to lessen the effects on workers and their families.