WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger cosponsored legislation to empower local school districts to engage girls, young women, and minority students in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
A September 2019 National Science Foundation study found that women remain underrepresented in the STEM workforce, with the greatest disparities found in the engineering, physical sciences, and computer science fields. And according to a 2018 report from the Pew Research Center, African-American and Hispanic workers continue to be underrepresented across the U.S. STEM workforce.
The Spanberger-backed 21st Century STEM for Girls and Underrepresented Minorities Act would encourage local schools districts to develop enhanced STEM learning programs at an early age to address these disparities. The bill would increase funding for teacher development, parent outreach, mentoring and tutoring for students, after-school and summer STEM programs, and high school course selection counseling.
“Central Virginia students deserve access to the best educational and job training opportunities possible. But for too long, women and minority students have faced significant barriers as they look to pursue STEM-related careers. Right now, we need to build new ways to support these students—and that begins by providing students with hands-on experience, mentorship, skills training, and career guidance at school,” said Spanberger. “This legislation would strengthen our investment in the next generation of scientists and engineers, and it would provide historically-disadvantaged students with greater exposure to rapidly-growing fields like data science, nanotechnology, and biomedical research. Especially as we anticipate an expansion of STEM-related job openings in the coming decade, more women and people of color in these fields can only lead to more success.”
The 21st Century STEM for Girls and Underrepresented Minorities Act is endorsed by the American Federation of Teachers, the Girl Scouts, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and the NAACP.
The Spanberger-cosponsored legislation would establish a competitive grant program for school districts to improve female and minority participation in STEM courses. Additionally, the bill includes a provision to make sure grants are distributed to areas of high-need or high rates of poverty. Specially, the bill would strengthen federal funding for:
- Tutoring and mentorship programs in STEM subjects,
- After-school and summer programs designed to encourage interest and skill-building in STEM subjects,
- Subsidies to minimize the costs of STEM-related educational materials, equipment, field trips, internships, and work experiences,
- Educational initiatives to raise awareness about the advantages of STEM-related careers, and
- Professional development services to teachers, principals, and other personnel aimed at reduced racial and gender bias.
The 21st Century STEM for Girls and Underrepresented Minorities Act is led in the U.S. House by U.S. Representative Joyce Beatty (D-OH-03). A companion bill is led in the U.S. Senate by U.S. Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV).