Advocacy & Public Policy Newsletter ~ August 2012
Senator from South Sponsors Support for STEM
This summer AWIS worked with the staff of the chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship to craft legislation to support women and minorities in STEM with a competitive grant program. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) recognizes the importance of increased participation by underrepresented groups in STEM. By introducing this legislation as a part of her leadership on this particular committee she brings awareness to a different audience than where these issues usually come up, and we are enthusiastically supportive.
The bill, known as the Women and Minorities in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Booster Act of 2012 (S.3475), authorizes $10 million for 3 years to the National Science Foundation for different activities designed to increase the participation of these groups in STEM fields. These include student and professional mentoring programs, online workshops, external internships for undergraduate and graduate students in STEM fields, and outreach programs for multiple levels of education to expose and attract more women and minorities to STEM disciplines. Eligible groups would include STEM departments in institutes of higher learning, groups that partner with university programs, and non-profits that represent membership in STEM.
Senator Landrieu is passionate about the importance of STEM entrepreneurship. She has previously sponsored other bills supporting Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) reauthorization programs as well as entrepreneurship and small business development. AWIS too feels strongly about the importance of innovation and economic opportunities that come with starting a tech business. To this end, we are working on developing an event to bring greater awareness to the obstacles women face in technology transfer. Women represent a low percentage of STEM workers compared to their participation in the overall workforce, but they represent an even smaller percentage of the number of patent holders.