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Society of Women Engineers

Presidential Campaigns Respond to SWE’s Questions

As a vehicle for greater discussion on issues related to women in engineering and STEM, SWE posed six questions to the presidential campaigns.

Published On: October 2016

As a vehicle for greater discussion on issues related to women in engineering and STEM, SWE posed six questions to the U.S. presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton, Democrat; Donald Trump, Republican; Dr. Jill Stein, Green Party; and Gary Johnson, Libertarian. At press time, responses were received from the Trump and Clinton campaigns, and are printed verbatim below. Dr. Stein’s campaign confirmed that responses are forthcoming, but would not reach us in time for print. Despite repeated attempts, the Johnson campaign has not replied. All responses will be posted on SWE’s All Together site as we receive them.

This article was first published in SWE Magazine.

These questions and answers are provided as a service to our members and readership, and should not be considered an endorsement of any candidate or party. 

1. According to the National Girls Collaborative Project, more girls are taking classes like pre-calculus and advanced biology during high school than male students. However, a 2011 report from the U.S. Department of Commerce, titled, “Women in STEM: A Gender Gap to Innovation,” shows that underrepresentation of women in the STEM workforce has remained stubbornly steady over the last decade. As President of the United States, how do you plan to address the need to identify and nurture interest in the STEM fields among women and to create more opportunity for them in the STEM workforce, STEM faculty positions, and labs?

CLINTON: While women have made great strides into the STEM fields, there is still more we must do. I remember as a young girl writing to NASA about the space program, only to learn that there were no female astronauts. However, when I was First Lady, I had the pleasure of celebrating the 25th anniversary of the moon landing with the Apollo 11 astronauts. By that time, there were already more than a dozen American women who had achieved my childhood dream of becoming an astronaut. Throughout this election, I have had the opportunity to hear from talented young women who are pursuing careers in STEM, including during a memorable visit to Carnegie Mellon during National Robotics Week. I understand what it’s like to try to make your way as a woman in a career traditionally occupied by men.  At Yale Law School I was just one of 27 women in my graduating class.

As president, I will work closely with the public and private sectors so that all young women can have the opportunity to pursue their passions, and open up this field—exposing young women to STEM courses earlier in their education, supporting them along the way, and removing the barriers that are holding them back. I will commit to these efforts because our country is stronger when a woman can be anything she wants to be.

TRUMP: The Constitutional mandate for the President of the United States is to ensure that the laws of the land are enforced to the best of his or her ability. I intend to do just that. As President, I will provide a vision for the future of this nation that will provide opportunities for all our citizens to maximize their individual potential. This potential must be determined by individual effort and desire. Our free market system works well, especially with less government interference rather than more regulation or efforts to control our economy at the federal level.

Our shortages in STEM educated individuals really begins in the home. Children must have the windows of opportunity opened for them in their homes and in their schools. Children must be given encouragement to pursue what they are interested in. We cannot dictate who takes what or who pursues what course of study. If we provide the best possible educational outcomes for our children, we will have more than enough individuals pursuing studies in STEM. To the extent the level of participation of women in STEM professions is due to discrimination against specific individuals, I will strongly enforce the laws on the books that rightly prohibit such discrimination. However, I also support women freely making their own individual lifestyle choices regarding work, family, and children without government interference.

2. Knowing that some of the 21st Century’s most ubiquitous devices (the iPad, the Internet, and countless others) have come from discoveries funded by federal research dollars, what do you think the appropriate role of the federal government is in supporting the country’s research enterprise? Further, what is your position on S. 3084, the bipartisan American Innovation and Competitiveness Act recently passed by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation? And, what do you think of the bill’s House counterpart, H.R. 1806, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015, and the research and STEM education communities’ concerns about its partisan approach to updating federal research and STEM education investments?

CLINTON: During this campaign I have laid out plans for students to receive education they need to build skills and pursue careers in math and science, and I have proposed bold action to strengthen our entire research enterprise in America and help develop the next generation of scientists and engineers. If elected, I will work with Congress so that our country is providing sufficient research funding so that our scientists and engineers have the ability to plan and explore emerging research areas that can improve knowledge, cure diseases, improve quality of life, and create good-paying jobs. We also ought to do more to share and open access to government-funded research results, as innovation payoff often comes from sharing this innovation with the private sector. And we need to make sure that people from all backgrounds have the opportunity to participate in cutting-edge research. Doing so will only make our country even stronger and more prosperous.

TRUMP: As President, I will consider any legislation that comes to my desk and will make sure that its intent and content are in the best interest of America. NASA, NSF and other federal science-based research have added to both human knowledge and technological advances. However, with the doubling of our national debt from $10 trillion, accumulated over the last 230 years, to over $10 trillion more in just the last eight years, making the total national debt more than $20 trillion, the federal government will need to determine the most cost effective priorities for spending taxpayer funds on science.

3. For the past thirty-six years, Title IX has been applicable to all educational programs that receive federal funds, not just gender equity in collegiate athletics. Sadly, there are indications that this law has not been evenly enforced by all federal agencies nor adhered to by all educational institutions, as intended. A December 2015 Government Accountability Office report validated this concern, as two of the six agencies GAO reviewed that fund STEM research at universities—Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)—are not even conducting required Title IX compliance reviews. As President, how would you seek to ensure that Title IX is evenly applied to all sectors of academia and the federal government, including STEM faculty departments and federal research awards, versus simply athletic programs?

CLINTON: When women leave STEM careers in academia at higher rates than men, that’s a lost opportunity for individual women and a lost opportunity for our country.  Working for greater inclusion of women in STEM is not only a matter of fairness, but a strategic imperative that advances U.S. economic competitiveness.

Title IX has opened doors for countless women and girls across our nation.  To realize the promise of Title IX, educational institutions and federal agencies must live up to their obligations to enforce it.  As President, I will prioritize Title IX enforcement, not only with respect to athletics, but across academia, including in STEM disciplines.  I will support Title IX compliance reviews; policies to promote the retention and advancement of women in STEM, including paid family leave and access to affordable child care; and encourage reforms to combat discrimination and bias in the workplace.

TRUMP: As President, I will ensure that all departments and agencies that comprise the Executive Branch will comply with current law. All students, female as well as male, deserve an equal opportunity to achieve at school, and at work once they graduate.

4. This summer, the Supreme Court of the United States affirmed the propriety of the University of Texas’ consideration of race in admissions. Research shows policies such as UT’s have helped establish more opportunities for women and minorities while improving the gender, racial, and ethnic diversity in educational institutions and in workplaces. What is your position on these affirmative action initiatives?

CLINTON: I support these initiatives. We need to guarantee that the doors to higher education are open not just to some, but to all – and that we are giving students equal opportunities to succeed and thrive.  Having students with a variety of backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences enriches classroom discussions, fosters understanding and compassion, teaches students to see others as individuals, and prepares them to be leaders and citizens in our increasingly diverse country.

TRUMP: My obligation will be to uphold the law of the land and I will do that. Currently, Affirmative Action in reaching out to minority and other underrepresented groups is supported in both statute and judicial precedent.

5. The National Science Foundation (NSF) has several programs that seek to broaden participation in the STEM fields, e.g., the ADVANCE program. As President, what are your plans to strengthen broadening efforts such as this one and increasing diversity in STEM education and professions?

CLINTON: A new generation of potential scientists, engineers, coders, and mathematicians are learning in classrooms across America right now. But too few are getting the high-quality education they need to succeed, especially in computer science and STEM fields.  Today, less than 40 percent of high school graduates have taken a course in physics, and the lack of STEM programming is most pronounced in schools with high concentrations of students of color.  If we don’t provide STEM educational opportunities to all of our students, we won’t increase diversity in STEM professions.

As president, I will commit to expanding access to computer science education: building upon President Obama’s “Computer Science Education for All” program so that all public schools in America have the resources they need to offer computer science education. And to expand the pool of STEM teachers, I will work with nonprofits and the private sector to train up to 50,000 computer science teachers in the next ten years.

Investing in K-12 STEM programming is just the start.  We also need to invest in our colleges and universities, and provide a lifelong learning system that is better tailored to the 21st century economy.  Under my “New College Compact” students from working families will have the opportunity to attend an in-state, four-year public institution tuition free, and we will create a $25 billion fund to support Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other minority-serving institutions (MSIs).

I’m particularly focused on offering young people from disadvantaged communities opportunities to enter STEM professions. That’s why I will invest $20 billion in youth jobs and pathways for individuals from disadvantaged communities – through support for models like linked learning, P-Tech, apprenticeships, and Career Academies.

And this is an idea I’m really excited about: I want to allow entrepreneurs to put their federal student loans on hold while they get their new ventures off the ground.  For millions of young Americans, this would mean deferment from having to make any payments on their student loans for up to three years as they work through the critical start-up phase of new enterprises. For young innovators who decide to launch either new businesses that operate in distressed communities, or social enterprises that provide measurable social impact and benefit, I want to offer forgiveness of up to $17,500 of their student loans after five years.

Increasing diversity in the STEM workforce isn’t only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do. Increasing diversity in the tech industry alone can generate an additional $500 billion in new value for the technology industry, boosting GDP by up to 1.6%.

TRUMP: I will work with my administration and with Congress to ensure that we come to mutual agreement on the priorities for this country. We will proceed on that basis. We must first ensure that our economy grows so that the resources will be available. Without growth in the economy, requests for increased funding are not supportable. All children should be encouraged and given the opportunity to pursue their interests as far as their God-given talents and hard work will take them.

6. On average, women bear more of the family caregiving responsibilities than men. States such as California, Washington, and New Jersey have implemented paid family leave policies that provide partially paid leave for employees who need to care for seriously ill family members, newborns, and adoptive or foster children. However, federal employees were not able to take advantage of similar benefits until 2015, when President Obama expanded paid sick and family leave for federal contractor workers. What do you believe is the responsibility of the federal government with regard to paid family leave and equal pay?

CLINTON: I believe that in America, no one should have to choose between keeping their job and taking care of a sick family member and no parent should have to go back to work right after they welcome their newborn baby home, just so they can keep up with the bills. It’s past time for our policies to catch up to the way families live and work today. That’s why, as president, I will fight to finally guarantee paid family and medical leave for hardworking Americans. Under my plan, workers will receive up to 12 weeks of support to care for a new child or a seriously ill family member, and up to 12 weeks of medical leave to recover from an injury or illness of their own. Under my plan, Americans will be paid at least two-thirds of their current wages, up to a ceiling, while on leave. We’ll do this without imposing additional costs on businesses, by asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share.

It’s also long past time to fully address the pay gap.  Across the country, women are earning less than men—a discrepancy that is especially significant for women of color.  As Senator, I co-sponsored the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and as president, I’ll keep up the fight to close the wage gap. I’ll work to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act – which I cosponsored in the Senate – to give women the tools they need to fight discrimination in the workforce. I’ll promote pay transparency across our economy, so that women have the information they need to negotiate fairly for their wages. And because the lowest paid jobs in America are disproportionately held by women, I’ll fight to increase the federal minimum wage and end the so-called “tipped minimum wage.” These aren’t just women’s issues. They’re economic issues. They’re family issues. And they need to be a top priority for our next president.

TRUMP: I have proposed such policies in my campaign and will make sure that such policies are considered as part of our efforts to strengthen America. I have recently proposed six weeks maternity leave after birth for the mothers of newborn infants. Other changes to our 1930s era workplace laws could make it easier for both mothers and fathers to better balance the needs of work and family. For instance, federal employees have enjoyed work schedule flexibility for over 30 years that private sector workers have not enjoyed that could serve as a model for improvements in this area for all workers.

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