Throughout history women and minorities have been pioneers in science and technology. And yet, even in the face of changing social ideals, young women and minorities continue to be vastly underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degree programs and careers. Recognizing the imperative need to close this gap, a bill sponsored by Assemblywomen Pamela Lampitt, Mila Jasey and Linda Carter was advanced in the Assembly Science, Innovation and Technology Committee on Monday.
“We need to start by teaching students at a young age, regardless of gender or race, that their dreams of being a rocket scientist or nuclear engineer are attainable,” said Lampitt (D-Burlington, Camden). “By laying a foundation that challenges traditional thinking, this bill works to positively alter perceptions about the accessibility of careers in science and technology.”
The bill (A-5301) calls on the New Jersey Department of Education (DOE) to stimulate more interest in science, technology, engineering and math with an outreach program specifically targeted to young women and minorities. The initiative requires the DOE to distribute materials in schools, host mentoring events, partner with STEM professionals, and create recruitment and retention programs.
“At a young age, too many children are told to steer clear of careers in STEM. They face challenges at home and in the classroom that work to discourage curiosity in those areas. As a result, they never end up learning about or exploring all the opportunities that actually exist,” said Carter (D-Middlesex, Somerset, Union). “The innovation we lose out on as a consequence is unfathomable and we can rectify it with expanded access to educational resources.”
“STEM fields are suffering from a lack of diversity among those in the workforce,” said Jasey (D-Essex, Morris). “I am particularly concerned by the way this deficiency makes us ill-equipped to address the health issues uniquely faced by women and minorities. My hope for this bill is that it changes outcomes in STEM by demonstrating to women and students of color that they are not just wanted, but in fact, needed in these areas.”
The bill now goes to the Assembly for further consideration.