NSPE TODAY: POLICY PERSPECTIVES
BY SARAH OGDEN
|Rep. Dan Lipiniski of Illinois, who holds a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, speaks during the "Diversity and Inclusion" Capitol Hill Day.|
With the economy continuing to lag and the proliferation of reports that the U.S. is falling behind in STEM education, policymakers on both sides of the aisle have managed to agree on one thing: Developing talent in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics is critical to America's continued economic prosperity and national security. To that end, the Obama administration has set a goal of preparing an additional 100,000 STEM teachers and a million new STEM graduates over the next 10 years. In order to meet those objectives, however, more individuals from underrepresented groups must enter the STEM pipeline.
NSPE helped spread that message in March by cosponsoring the third annual Society of Women Engineers "Diversity and Inclusion Fuels Innovation in STEM" Capitol Hill Day. NSPE believes that the variety of approaches and perspectives offered by a diverse STEM workforce helps create innovation critical to American competitiveness. But while 50.7% of the U.S. population is made up of women, only 10.7% of engineers are women. Underrepresented minorities (African-Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans) comprise 29.2% of the U.S. population, but only 9.1% of engineers are minorities. Clearly, there is work to be done.
SWE's annual Capitol Hill Day, which this year was cosponsored by 29 engineering organizations, seeks to raise awareness among policymakers about the need to broaden participation in STEM fields as well as educate the engineering community about public policy initiatives that would encourage diversity in STEM. Well-known STEM advocates made brief remarks in support of the event, including National Science Foundation Deputy Director Cora Marrett; Science, Space and Technology Committee Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Research and Science Education Subcommittee Ranking Member Dan Lipinski (D-IL); and Reps. Judy Biggert (R-IL), Robert Dold (R-IL), and Silvestre Reyes (D-TX). NASA Administrator Charles Bolden also made a surprise appearance, advising women to mentor each other in order to broaden participation in the engineering profession.
While lawmakers agree that encouraging diversity in STEM is a valid effort, implementing policies that broaden participation has been another story. The sticking point, as always, is money. Budget constraints mean that Congress, now more than ever, is wary of policies that require funding. Luckily, many lawmakers have remained committed to funding STEM education and science and technology advancement despite the economic climate—and adequate funding for these programs will benefit everyone.
NSPE proactively encourages diversity in all areas of the engineering profession and encourages members and employers in each practice area to make special efforts in recruitment to have minorities and women adequately represented at all levels of the engineering profession.
For NSPE's position statement "Minorities and Women in Engineering," go to www.nspe.org/IssuesandAdvocacy/TakeAction/index.html and click on "Position Statements."