(TRENTON) – Young women and minorities continue to be vastly underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degree programs and careers. Seeking to close the gap, the full Assembly on Thursday voted 78-0 to approve a bill (A-1625) sponsored by Assemblywomen Pamela Lampitt, Mila Jasey and Linda Carter.
“Students at a young age, regardless of gender or race, need to be shown that their dreams of being a scientist or engineer are attainable,” said Lampitt (D-Burlington, Camden). “By laying a foundation that challenges traditional thinking, this bill works to positively alter perceptions and make careers in science and technology accessible.”
Under the measure, the New Jersey Department of Education (DOE) together with the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education and the Commission on Science, Innovation and Technology would design an outreach program to stimulate more interest in STEM. It would be targeted mainly to young women and minorities.
“At a young age, too many children’s curiosity in STEM fields are either discouraged at home or in the classroom,” said Carter (D-Middlesex, Somerset, Union). “By expanding access to educational resources and encouraging exploration of STEM, we can better capitalize on diverse talents and better spur innovation.”
As part of the outreach initiative, the DOE would be required to provide opportunities to increase exposure to STEM, distribute materials to schools, host mentoring events, and create programs for recruitment and retention of underrepresented STEM faculty.
“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. We can change outcomes in STEM by demonstrating to women and students of color just how much they are needed in these areas.”
The bill now goes to the Senate for further consideration.