During a panel discussion at the New America Foundation, Melissa Moritz, deputy director of STEM -- science, technology, engineering and math -- at the Education Department, noted the ethnic and gender imbalances in computer science education. Still a rarity at schools across the country, computer science classes are disproportionately unavailable to low-income students, according to Moritz, who argued that biases -- conscious or unconscious -- deter many minority and female students from pursuing the field that is accounting for more wage growth in the U.S.
Why do so few women sign up for careers in science, technology, engineering and math? Research suggests having few women in college in these fields and in technology companies creates a vicious cycle.
The Department of Education on Wednesday released a Dear Colleague letter warning high schools and colleges that women must have equal access to career and technical education programs in order to fill jobs that are currently in high demand.
"Girls and minorities are just as interested in science as white males. You look at all the data that are coming out, that look at high school students who might be going to college, they are as likely to be interested in those STEM fields as their white males. The question about whether or not they’re getting what they need is a valid one. In the case of minority students, it relates to the fact that they often aren’t in the best schools where the best classes are being offered, that offer authentic science practices for them."
Though female students have made huge strides overall in education -- they now outnumber men on college campuses, for instance -- Newman said a few trends are still worrisome, such as the low percentage of girls taking Advanced Placement (AP) computer science courses each year. Given current course-taking trends, she predicted, “We’ll have people on Mars before I get 50% of the girls taking AP Computer Science.”
On Tuesday, June 14, Oracle added another $3 million specifically to focus the program on girls and women worldwide. The money will help to fund programs to send 55,000 young girls around the world to various summer computing camps, codefests, workshops and conferences. The company also expects to expand its computer science efforts in Egypt over the next four years, where it invested $1 million in educational resources and services. Ultimately, the tech giant hopes these programs will funnel more people into tech careers.
“This whole project was to introduce the girls to a fun hands-on STEM project,” Reeve said. “They’ve learned everything from electronics to computer programming. They built direction-finding antennas so we can track the balloon, they programmed, they learned about the sensors -- we’re flying about a dozen different sensors. They’ll analyze the data once it comes back down.”
The issue of implicit bias in the peer review process is significant because a strong publication record is critical to success in most science and engineering fields. Bias in the grant review process may determine which scientists are able to continue working in their field. If some groups of people are less likely to publish and get funding, then the professional sphere of science will remain more homogeneous.
It is said that leaders aren't born, they're made -- and Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski embodies the notion. Motivated early on by her strong and determined mother, and then tested in her pursuit to prevail at a male-dominated career in a male-dominated world, she inspires today’s young women seeking to become the next generation of scientists, technology experts, engineers and mathematicians.
Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, met with community leaders, education advocates, and students at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle on the importance of expanding access to Science, Technology, Education, and Math (STEM) education. In remarks delivered at the center, Murray discussed the need to invest in and support various programs both inside and outside of the classroom, and how to increase opportunities for women and minorities in STEM fields.