SWE Sends Letter to Congress Requesting Support for Women in STEM

In coordination with the SWE Congressional Visits Day, SWE executive director and CEO Karen Horting sent a letter to members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives requesting support for legislation aimed at supporting women and girls in STEM in education and in practice. Here is the text of the letter:

March 21, 2024

Dear Member of Congress:

Today, members of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) are meeting with Members and staff to discuss issues important to women engineers. With over 46,000 members globally, SWE advocates for public policies that promote equity in research and the classroom, foster excellence and access to quality opportunities in the workforce, and ensure that women and girls graduating high school and college leave with the skills and knowledge that support their professional, academic and personal aspirations.

Supporting women in engineering and the STEM workforce is crucial, and federal lawmakers should prioritize policies and programs that do just that. Women represent a significant portion of the talent pool. Exposing all elementary and secondary students to STEM disciplines is the first step in ensuring their full participation in STEM fields. Further, lawmakers can leverage diverse perspectives and talents by supporting policies that foster diversity in STEM fields and professions, leading to increased innovation and economic growth. As you know, many STEM fields are facing shortages of qualified professionals at the very time that the country must realize the promise of the CHIPS and Science Act, investments in infrastructure and the potential of Artificial Intelligence and other innovations. By tapping into the underutilized talent pool of women, including those who want to re-enter the technical workforce, lawmakers can help address these shortages and ensure that industries have the skilled workforce they need to thrive.

Supporting the STEM RESTART Act

SWE supports the expedient enactment of the STEM RESTART Act (S.662/HR.1403). The bipartisan, bicameral bill would establish a new national program to support mid-career workers reentering the STEM workforce, including workers from underrepresented or rural populations, by awarding grants to certain small- and medium-sized businesses to assist such workers in reentering the workforce at positions above entry level. This bill is more important than ever as companies are looking for the talent they need to innovate and expand. If you haven’t already, please co-sponsor the bill.

Supporting Women In STEM

SWE supports the Paycheck Fairness Act (S.728/HR.17), which requires the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to collect employer data to better enforce laws prohibiting pay discrimination. The bill would end the practice of pay secrecy and strengthen available remedies for wronged employees — as the gender pay gap stubbornly persists. Across the U.S., women still earn, on average, just 77 cents for every dollar paid to men, resulting in a gap of $11,782 each year — and the disparity is worse for women of color. If you haven’t already, please co-sponsor the bill.

Federal Investments in STEM Education and Research

Congress is considering FY 2024 spending bills and the start of the FY 2025 process at the same time. In both processes, Congress should invest adequately in programs that support access to STEM education from Pre-K through college and beyond, in particular efforts to grow the STEM capacity of MSIs. In the FY 2024 and 2025 spending bills, Congress should support investments in STEM education at the Department of Education, the National Science Foundation, and other agencies. The Department of Education supports efforts to expose all children to STEM education in their K-12 educational experience. The National Science Foundation does important research on the teaching and learning of STEM subjects in the pre-K to postgraduate pipeline. Other agencies support various efforts to inspire interest in STEM fields and nurture talent. These are all important and valuable efforts that warrant adequate investments. In addition, please support efforts to grow the capacity of minority-serving institutions to produce STEM graduates and teachers of STEM subjects. MSIs produce 20% of the country’s STEM graduates, but if the country’s STEM workforce needs are to be met, that figure must grow.

Jobs in the STEM fields must be filled substantially by women to meet the country’s economic, manufacturing and infrastructure goals. Enabling women and girls to compete in the global economy requires a strong federal commitment to improved access to quality teaching and learning in the STEM fields, as well as leadership at the federal research agencies that recognizes the contributions of female STEM professionals. Supporting women in the STEM workforce is not only a matter of fairness but also a strategic imperative for promoting innovation, economic growth, and social progress. SWE looks forward to working with you and your colleagues on our shared goals.

Thank you for your attention to these views.

Karen Horting
Executive director and CEO