In a September 2006 report, Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering, the National Academies stated that, in order to maintain scientific and engineering leadership amid increasing economic and educational globalization, the United States must aggressively pursue the innovative capacity of all people, regardless of sex. Although women make up almost half of the U.S. workforce, they continue to be underrepresented in STEM professions, particularly in the higher academic faculty ranks and leadership positions. As President of the United States, how do you plan to address the need for more women in STEM?
Sen. Barack Obama:
Joe Biden and I agree with the conclusion of the National Academies’ Bias and Barriers report that the United States must aggressively pursue the innovative capacity of all people. In a globalized world, our prosperity and national security depend on our ability to lead the world in innovation. Other nations are now challenging that leadership, and in responding we must call upon talent and creativity of all of our people. We will need to significantly increase our STEM workforce, and to do that we will need to engage not just women and minorities but also persons with disabilities, English language learners, and students from low income families.
Women are significantly underrepresented in the STEM workforce, and especially in the leadership positions in research and academia. We need women in leadership roles both for their contribution and for the message of encouragement and opportunity that their presence sends to our daughters. We support a range of proactive measures that will open opportunities in science to women, such as requiring minority and female representation on government panels developing innovation and competitiveness strategies, and establishing mentoring programs to support women and underrepresented groups in STEM education programs - two measures that I helped pass as part of the America COMPETES Act. We also support improved educational opportunities for all students, increased responsibilities and accountability for those receiving federal research funding, equitable enforcement of existing laws such as Title IX, continuation and strengthening of programs aimed at broader engagement in the STEM disciplines, full funding for the America COMPETES Act, and increased funding for the National Institutes of Health.
Sen. John McCain:
I am committed to ensuring a diverse workforce. Discrimination on the basis of sex is abhorrent, and my administration will vigorously enforce federal anti-discrimination laws. All people should have the opportunity to reach their potential based on merit and hard work.
It is also important that we strengthen our public education system’s focus on math, science, and engineering to spark children’s interest in those important fields. That is why I have proposed a dramatic overhaul of Title II of No Child Left Behind to provide funding for incentive bonuses for teachers who choose to teach those subjects. I also support providing funding for low-income students to hire tutors and for local districts to expand online educational opportunities—initiatives that will ensure that learning continues outside of the classroom.
Happy voting, everyone! (I'm mailing in my ballot tomorrow.)