WASHINGTON -Senator Mary L. Landrieu, Chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, and Senator Mark Pryor, a senior member of the committee, introduced the Women and Minorities in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Booster Act of 2013. 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, but also make America more competitive in the global economy."
"If we want to keep our STEM industry growing, we need to make these fields of study readily available to women and minorities, and promote programs that will encourage all students to join the field," Pryor said. "That's why I was proud to team up with Senator Landrieu on the STEM Booster Act that will promote STEM education and keep our nation globally competitive."
According to the Department of Commerce, minorities only comprise 28 percent of the overall STEM workforce. While women make up 48 percent of the national workforce, they make up just 24 percent of STEM workers. Furthermore, in 2007, underrepresented minority groups comprised 33.2 percent of the college-age population of the United States, but only 17.7 percent of undergraduate students earning a baccalaureate degree in a STEM field.
The STEM Act seeks to fix these problems by authorizing the National Science Foundation with $10 million annually for three 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, the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, Inc., Association of Women's Business Centers and Women Impacting Public Policy.
Details of grant entities and activities:
o A department of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics at an institution of higher education, including 1-, 2-, and 4-year institutions
o A consortium of those educational departments
o An organization that is partnered with an educational institution
o Nonprofit organizations that represent science and engineering disciplines and/or advance the participation of underrepresented segments of the population in science and engineering
o Online workshops
o Student and professional mentoring programs
o Professional internships for undergraduate and graduate STEM students
o 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