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    April 2016
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On Equal Pay Day, Senator Hirono Leads Measure To End Gender Barriers In STEM Careers

Senator Mazie K. Hirono today marked Equal Pay Day by introducing the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Opportunities Act, legislation that would improve inclusion of women, minorities, and people with disabilities in STEM careers. Equal Pay Day marks the day in 2016 when, on average, women’s wages catch up to what men earned in 2015.

mazie 412“It’s unacceptable that we are more than 100 days into 2016, but women’s salaries are only now catching up with what men made last year,” said Senator Hirono. “While the gender pay gap affects women across all fields, women in STEM careers continue to face barriers that can limit their opportunities for employment and equal pay. The STEM Opportunities Act takes a comprehensive approach to combatting factors that limit the advancement of women and other underrepresented groups in STEM. For America to remain competitive in a 21st century economy, we must break down barriers for working women through passing the Paycheck Fairness Act and the STEM Opportunities Act.”

Senator Hirono also took to the Senate floor to mark Equal Pay Day and highlight disparities in STEM fields. For example, at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in school year 2014-2015, men earned more than five times the number of computer science bachelor’s degrees and three times as many bachelor’s degrees in the College of Engineering as women.

The STEM Opportunities Act helps federal science agencies and institutions of higher education identify and share best practices to overcome barriers that can hurt the inclusion of women and other underrepresented groups in STEM, and also allows universities and nonprofits to receive competitive grants and recognition for mentoring women and minorities in STEM fields. The STEM Opportunities Act builds on legislation championed by Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Ranking Member of the U.S. House of Representatives Science, Space, and Technology Committee.

The Senate measure is cosponsored by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Edward Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Patty Murray (D-WA), Gary Peters (D-MI), and Brian Schatz (D-HI).

“Science, technology, engineering and math are drivers of innovation in states like New Jersey, and across the country. If we are to remain globally competitive, we have to ensure all Americans- including women and minorities- are prepared to succeed in these important fields,” said Senator Booker. “I am pleased to support the STEM Opportunities Act to create inclusive career pathways that will help grow our economy and create opportunities for more Americans.”

“The STEM fields are critical to driving innovation and economic growth,” said Senator Gillibrand. “But we limit our potential when our STEM workforce does not reflect the diversity of our nation. I was proud to lead a successful bipartisan amendment to the recently enacted Every Student Succeeds Act to increase access to high-quality STEM coursework in K-12 education for students who are members of groups underrepresented in STEM fields. The STEM Opportunities Act will improve opportunities for advancement in STEM fields for women and underrepresented minorities further down the pipeline – in higher education, in early careers, and for STEM academics and professionals.”

“Increasing women and minority participation in the STEM economy will keep the United States at the forefront of scientific discovery and technological innovation in the 21st century,” said Senator Markey. “The diversity of STEM professionals will help fuel the diversity of discoveries in science, technology, engineering and math. For our future scientific endeavors to produce the next generation of life-changing results, we need to ensure that our universities, laboratories and research institutions reflect the rich diversity of our nation and continue to receive the support that fosters breakthroughs and helps maintain American leadership in science and technology.”

“If we’re serious about empowering more young women and communities of color to take on STEM careers and compete in the 21st century economy, we need to ramp up our research efforts to identify and share best practices so that we can diversify the next generation of STEM professionals,” said Senator Murray. “STEM skills are so important for Washington state’s economy, so making these fields more inclusive will ultimately strengthen our workforce and our economy in the years to come.”

“By expanding access to STEM disciplines in schools and sharing best practices for recruitment and retention in STEM careers, we can help more women and minorities become engaged in science, technology, engineering and math, boosting economic success and strengthening America’s competitiveness in the 21st-century global economy,” said Senator Peters. “The STEM Opportunities Act of 2016 will improve inclusion of women and minorities in STEM fields by tapping into and fostering their talents.”

The American Association for University of Women, American Women in Science, Girls, Inc., MAES- Latinos in Science and Engineering, Maui Economic Development Board, National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, Society for Women Engineers, Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science, and the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center support the STEM Opportunities Act.

“When we reduce barriers that deter women and other underrepresented minorities from pursuing careers in STEM fields, American businesses get a leg up on the rest of the world. The STEM Opportunities Act will open doors for a more diverse science community, and in so doing help spur innovation and increase our global competitiveness,” said Lisa Maatz, Vice President of Government Relations at American Association of University Women. “Any serious attempt to modernize our science workforce and our nation’s science priorities is incomplete without this measure.

“In Hawaii, high-paying STEM jobs are boosting our island economy,” said Leslie Wilkins, Vice President, of the Maui Economic Development Board and Director of the Women in Technology Project. “To grow the education to workforce pipeline needed to keep up with STEM job demand, our Women in Technology initiative continues to engage girls and women who are under-represented in technology fields. WIT’s hands-on STEM curriculum, training, mentoring and internship programs have had a significant impact statewide but still need ongoing support.  Mahalo to Senator Hirono for introducing the STEM Opportunities Act, a comprehensive bill that could strengthen our efforts, as well as others throughout Hawaii and the nation.”

“Investing in STEM is an investment in our nation’s future, and it is imperative that women and people of color are represented and empowered to succeed in these fields. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) are underrepresented in STEM leadership roles, and despite stereotypes, some AAPI subgroups are underrepresented in STEM overall. Disaggregated data on AAPIs at institutions of higher education and federal science agencies will highlight the need for more investment in AAPIs in STEM fields, and this legislation would benefit all women and people of color in STEM. Senator Hirono has been a strong advocate for STEM inclusion, and we also thank her for her ongoing leadership on behalf of AAPI communities in all areas,” said National Council of Asian Pacific Americans National Director Christopher Kang.

“Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) enthusiastically supports the STEM Opportunities Act of 2016 and applauds its sponsors for their efforts.  Improving data collection, research and sharing best practices across federal science agencies and institutions of higher education to address systemic factors impeding the inclusion of underrepresented groups in STEM fields are all key elements in the Nation’s interest.  The PAESMEM awards are particularly essential in bringing all groups into STEM; SACNAS was a PAESMEM recipient in 2004 and 20 of SACNAS’ members have received PAESMEM awards.   In order to keep our nation competitive in science and engineering, such legislation as this Act is essential. As classical Clayton Christensen ‘disruptive thinking’ implies, helping the unserved and underserved—women and underrepresented minorities in STEM in this case—enables the greatest movement forward. SACNAS has over 6,000 paid members and serves a larger constituency of over 18,000—over half of whom are females—with particular emphasis on minorities underrepresented in STEM,” said Robert E. Barnhill, Ph.D, Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science Vice President, Science Policy & Strategic Initiatives.

“SEARAC commends Senator Hirono’s proposed STEM Opportunities Act for taking a thoughtful, comprehensive approach to strengthening and diversifying the STEM workforce through grants for evidence-based efforts, the creation of a federal inter-agency group to create policies that include a more diverse STEM workforce, and the collection of data to examine progress towards increasing STEM opportunities for underrepresented groups.  SEARAC is especially pleased that the STEM Opportunities Act collects disaggregated data for AAPI students — which will illuminate the disparities in access and participation to STEM opportunities within the AAPI community,” said Quyen Dinh, Executive Director of the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC).

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