Yesterday, Senator Mary L. Landrieu, Chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, introduced the Women and Minorities in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Booster Act of 2012. This legislation will authorize funds for the National Science Foundation to manage a competitive grant program to promote women and minorities pursuing jobs in the STEM industry.
"Increasing participation in the fields of math and science by qualified women and minorities will serve to strengthen America's entrepreneurial spirit," Sen. Landrieu said. "The STEM Booster Act is a great way to expand the talent pool in STEM disciplines, which will not only increase diversity in math and science programs, it will also make America more competitive in the global economy."
The severe gender and racial underrepresentation in the STEM field demonstrates a lack of cultural and intellectual diversity. It also makes America less competitive in global markets. Women make up 48% of the national workforce, but just 24% of STEM workers. Although African Americans and Hispanic Americans are similarly underrepresented, their overall share of the labor force is bound to grow to a majority by the year 2050.
The STEM Act seeks to fix these problems by authorizing the National Science Foundation with $10 million annually for 3 years for grant programs. STEM institutions, departments, and organizations can compete for funds that will be used for online workshops, mentoring programs, internships, and/or outreach programs to spur women and minorities' interest and participation in the STEM industry. The goal is to inspire future generations to earn a STEM education while retaining the strong women and minority STEM workers already in the field.
The bill has already received support from organizations that represent a broad range of STEM industry companies, such as: the Association of Women in Science and the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, Inc.
Details of grant entities and activities:
A department of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics at an institution of higher education, including 1-, 2-, and 4-year institutions
A consortium of those educational departments
An organization that is partnered with an educational institution
Nonprofit organizations that represent science and engineering disciplines and/or advance the participation of underrepresented segments of the population in science and engineering
Student and professional mentoring programs
Professional internships for undergraduate and graduate STEM students
STEM education outreach programs for secondary school, undergraduate and graduate school students, and other programs to increase and retain women and minority participation in STEM education and industries