Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D.-TX) recently introduced legislation designed to boost female representation in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. Although attempts to pass an independent bill failed, Johnson succeeded in appending a women-specific measure to the America COMPETES Act of 2007, which is up for reauthorization.
Many recent studies have shown that culture is a problem for women in STEM fields. An American Association of University Women (AAUW) study found that female postdoctoral applicants must produce 20 more papers to be judged as productive as their male counterparts. A Bayer Corp. study found that more than 40 percent of female and minority chemists and chemical engineers had been steered away from pursuing STEM careers at some point during their education. The findings are consistent with studies showing that girls from countries where gender equity is more widespread are more likely to perform well on math assessment tests.
"Having an adequately prepared STEM workforce is about homeland security and national defense, green economy and high-tech jobs that would be here on American soil," says AAUW's Lisa Maatz.
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