Hurrah, women STEMers! Now what?

You may have read this announcement already – it’s making the rounds on the “women in STEM” listservs (I got this version off of WEPAN, but I also saw it on the NSF-PGE listserv). It reads:

House Celebrates Women Scientists, Technologists, Engineers, and Mathematicians
On June 4, the House approved, by voice vote, a resolution (H. Res. 1180) recognizing the efforts of outstanding women scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians in the United States and around the world.

Sponsored by Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA), the resolution contains a number of findings, including:

  • women have been vitally important to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and have transformed the world and enhanced and improved the quality of life around the globe;
  • the contributions of women and mothers are central to progress and to the development of knowledge in many areas, including chemistry, physics, biology, geology, engineering, mathematics, and astronomy, and these contributions boost economic growth, create new jobs, and improve our knowledge and standard of living;
  • in order to ensure our nation’s global competitiveness, our schools must continue to cultivate female scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians from every background and neighborhood in our society to create the innovations of tomorrow that will keep our nation strong;
  • and a disproportionately low number of female students are pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and it is crucial that we focus attention on increasing the participation of women.

Well this is all very well and good, and something to be happy about, I guess. But now what? What is Congress going to do about all this?

The most useful aspect of this announcement to me is as a citation for how people think we should do something to get more girls and women into science and engineering etc. Let’s hope Congress doesn’t stop there (hah).


  1. #1 ScienceWoman
    June 12, 2008

    Maybe Congressional recognition will allow additional resources to be leveraged?

  2. #2 Ivan
    June 12, 2008

    While its very nice that the house is recognizing the importance of women in the STEM fields, it really does seem like a purely cosmetic gesture. Expecially given who authored the bill.

  3. #3 j
    June 12, 2008

    I used to think my departmental colleagues (in a Psychology Dept) were overly sensitive about not being considered scientists. But now I’m starting to see the point. Hey, I know I don’t deal with the wet stuff that the neuroscientists do, but cognitive science and psycholinguistics are sciences too! Pout. Sorry, I know the proportion of women in my area is a lot higher than in traditional/hard sciences and engineering, but I feel left out.

  4. #4 msphd
    June 13, 2008

    yup. look like lip service to me. no substance i can see.

    the question is really whether this is the beginning or the end of whatever they’re going to do about it.

  5. #5 whatev
    June 13, 2008

    Give me a @!#$@! break. How about they put their money where their mouth is, and fund science dammit! Fund all of us, women and men. Science in the US is heading towards rock bottom.

  6. #6 Gilman the Penguin
    June 14, 2008

    Meaningless though this resolution may be, I applaud it anyway.

    But I gotta wonder — in the second point of the resolution, why “the contributions of women and mothers“? I’m all for motherhood, but what does it have to do with the rest of the resolution? Would Congress ever have thought of passing a resolution extolling the contributions of “men and fathers”?

    I don’t want to read too much into the “R” after Rep. Reichert’s name, but it strikes me that whoever drafted this resolution inherently believes that the primary role of women is to be mothers. Why else include the word so out of context?

  7. #7 Daniel K
    June 14, 2008

    It is ironic that a man who is a science skeptic and does not believe in Climate Change would create a resolution like this one. I’m actually flabbergasted to discover this. Meanwhile, his Democratic opponent has a computer science degree from Harvard and has worked in the high tech field, including Microsoft. If he wants to truly promote women in the sciences, he might consider stepping aside and handing over his seat to one such woman, Darcy Burner.

  8. #8 Female Engineering Professor
    June 14, 2008

    I think the bit about mothers relates to the role they play in shaping children’s futures. For example, if all mothers trash talk math and science, it puts a damper on the next generation’s enthusiasm for the subject. (Although, now that I think about it, my kids sort of relish doing things I tell them not to … but I digress.) I remember one of my mother’s friends plopping down next to her on a bench saying, “What am I going to do? She wants to be on the math-science team at school.” Yikes.

    I wish Oprah would have a show on women in STEM fields just for this reason …. so mothers would see it and say, “Aha, what a cool thing for my daughter to do. I think I’ll send her to that robotics/space/chemistry camp this summer.”

    I can’t tell you how hard it was to talk my mother into letting me go to chemistry camp the summer before my senior year. Fortunately, my dad pulled through for me.

  9. #9 Alice
    June 14, 2008

    Interesting point about the “mothers” thing, a point I confess I overlooked when I posted. It creeps me out because it smacks of “we’re only caring because women will educate their kids better if we care” – similar to the argument for why women should be educated, back in the day. Women’s education was seen as important for *men’s* education, because the mothers were then going to make sure their sons got educated properly, and that was Good For Democracy (’cause, of course, women couldn’t vote, and white women of the upper classes didn’t work neither). Note no mention of daughters, not sure what happened to them.

  10. #10 Female Engineering Professor
    June 15, 2008

    What bugs me about it is that it’s redundant. Mothers are women.

  11. #11 Alice
    June 15, 2008

    But not all women are mothers. The mother part for me should be irrelevant. So why did they include it?

  12. #12 Daniel K
    June 15, 2008

    “But not all women are mothers. The mother part for me should be irrelevant. So why did they include it?”

    Because this resolution was written by a man, and a Republican, and in their view a woman’s primary role is to be a mother.

  13. #13 Alice
    June 16, 2008

    Aye, there’s the reason.

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