In an effort to close the gap when it comes to women, minorities and other populations in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), a bill by Assembly Democrats Mila Jasey and Daniel Benson to require the creation of a program that would assist universities in recruiting and retaining individuals from these underrepresented groups was signed into law Wednesday.
The law (formerly bill A-1070) requires the Secretary of Higher Education to establish a program with the purpose of developing guidance and strategies for identifying cultural and institutional barriers that prevent underrepresented students from entering or remaining in STEM fields. The program will also provide these students with institutional support to help them reach their academic goals.
Upon the legislation becoming law, Assemblywoman Jasey (D-Essex, Morris) and Assemblyman Daniel Benson (Mercer, Middlesex) issued the following joint statement:
“For too long, many different groups – such as women and people of color – have been excluded from the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Their lack of representation in these fields is due to a number of factors that begin at a young age and continue throughout their academic and professional experiences.
“Rampant discrimination and harassment that form hostile classrooms and workplaces are just some of the barriers these individuals can face. In order to combat inequality in STEM, we need to identify the many ways in which our educational institutions, and society as a whole, limit opportunities and create unwelcome environments for underrepresented groups.
“Historically, women, people of color, people with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ+ community have made significant contributions to technological, mathematic and scientific advancements. Yet still they are discouraged from participating in these important fields. Imagine all we could accomplish if individuals of every background were given the same opportunities and support.
“This program is one way New Jersey can begin to address these inequalities in order to improve the diversity and equity of STEM in our state.”