The Monthly SWE Newsletter
March 2015
Public Policy

Closing the Gender Data Gap

SWE was in New York this week attending Not There Yet: A Data Driven Analysis of Gender Equality. This was the launch event for the Full Participation Report, developed by the Clinton Foundation and the Gates Foundation. It represents a data driven approach to gender equality and is an outcome of the No Ceilings Project, launched in 2013 by the Clinton Foundation. The report includes 850,000 data points, spanning more than 20 years and 190 countries. Hillary Clinton has said that it “celebrates achievements and identifies the gaps that remain.” Gender equality is the “great unfinished business of the 21st century.”

Speakers included her Excellency Kolina Grabar-Kitarovic, the first female president of Croatia. Grabar-Kiatrovic was followed by her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of the Republic of Liberia, who said “The gains are clear, but the gaps are glaring.”

Around the world, 800 women die every day from preventable pregnancy complications, the workforce gender gap hasn’t changed in 20 years and one in three women suffers from abuse. Also, women in many countries, although attaining equal levels of education, are not well-represented in the executive ranks. For instance, in Argentina 19 percent more women than men are enrolled in the universities, but 42 percent less women than men hold executive positions. No data on women in executive positions is available for the United States. And although girls show similar competencies, they are not represented in many countries among those who get science degrees.

Surprisingly, women are typically missing from peace and security conversations. Only 16 percent of peace deals over the last decade have referenced women, and only eight percent of peace negotiators have been women.

We are not victims,” says Clinton, “women are agents of change and drivers of progress.” We need data to develop policies for change, but data does not seem to be disaggregated by sex. Mapping Gender Data Gaps—a report put out by Data2X, a United Nations Foundation initiative—identifies data gaps in the domains of health, education, economic opportunities, political participation and human security, all of which are critical areas.

We are just not there yet, and Clinton, Melinda Gates and Chelsea Clinton have invited us to take a deeper dive into the data. SWE is also working on building capacity to collect more data in order to identify gaps and inform new policies. We are developing a database and we hope you will register. Contact yvonne.rodriguez@swe.org for more information.

Participate in SWE's Capitol Hill Day Events

SWE is heading to Capitol Hill March 18-19 for Capital Hill Day (CHD) 2015. Entitled Diversity and Inclusion Drive Innovation in STEM, this educational outreach event will bring SWE to the 114th Congress.

Thirty engineering and diversity organizations are sponsoring and participating in this year’s activities, which include:

  • Advocacy Training
  • A Congressional Reception
  • Visits with Members of Congress and/or their staff

We’ll be discussing how, in order for the US to remain a leader in the STEM fields, it is crucial to fully engage the entire STEM talent pool and make sure that everyone, regardless of gender or ethnicity, is able to fully participate at all levels. We want to convince members of Congress that we must do all we can to remove obstacles and maximize the contributions of women to the nation's STEM needs. We can start by:

  • Ensuring institutional research efforts funded by the federal government, including research at national labs, are enabling the participation and advancement of women in STEM.
  • Providing opportunities for advancement and leadership for women in STEM.
  • Encouraging appropriate disaggregated data collection for accountability.
  • Better integrating STEM education into school curricula, and expanding current mathematics and science education research to include engineering education.

You can participate, too! In fact, we need you to help make this an impactful event. Please log in to the SWE Legislative Action Center and sign up for more information. You can be a part of Capitol Hill Day by writing or calling to let your elected officials know what SWE is doing in D.C., inviting them to attend our reception, discussing the talking points with them, or scheduling an appointment with them when they are back in their home offices. You can find and contact your elected officials through the action center. Also, join us in April for our online town hall meeting. CHD participants will have the opportunity to share their experiences and discuss next steps. Times and links to register for the town hall meeting will be sent out after CHD.

Securing the Future through Research

As we gear up for the FY16 federal budget process, SWE is working to secure the future for women in STEM—that's why we've joined the Task Force on American Innovation (TFAI), an alliance of America’s leading companies, research universities and scientific societies. The TFAI supports research in physical sciences and engineering by advocating for sustained research budgets at the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science, the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Department of Defense (DOD) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

The STEM research that these agencies fund is used to develop the STEM workforce and enables innovation, which in turn leads to new solutions to global challenges and primes us to address unforeseen crises head on. Innovation grows the economy and raises the quality of life through new products and services. Federal funding is crucial because companies generally are limited in the amount of long-term, high-risk projects they can take on. Often their focus is more on applied research and development that evolves from federally-funded basic research.

As a leader at the intersection of engineering and gender, SWE strives for strategic partnerships with organizations such as the TFAI to support crucial research and funding. The TFAI is based in Washington D.C. and works regularly with members of Congress and congressional staff. Over the next few months, we will focus on outreach and education on the Hill, meeting with members of Congress on the Appropriations and Space and Technology Committees. Other advocacy activity of the taskforce includes hosting events, such as Deconstructing the iPad, that illustrate the value of federally funded research.

SWE partners with many organizations and coalitions including:

  • National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education (NCWGE) - Provides leadership in and advocates for the development of national education policies that benefit all women and girls.
  • The Association for Women in Science (AWIS) - The largest multi-disciplinary organization for women in STEM dedicated to achieving equity and full participation of women in all disciplines and across all employment sectors.

President Obama Asks Congress to Pass Legislation to Strengthen Working Families

In his State of the Union (SOTU) Address, President Obama called for new steps to strengthen working families across America. The president asked Congress to pass legislation that would allow millions of working Americans to earn up to seven days of paid sick time per year, proposing more than $2 billion in new funds to encourage states to develop paid family and medical leave programs and modernizing the Federal workplace by directing agencies to advance up to six weeks of paid leave for parents with a new child.

SWE believes family-friendly workplace policies are essential to help retain women scientists, engineers and technologists in the interest of strengthening America’s diverse, competitive workforce and advancing our country’s innovation enterprise. Creating work environments where employees can integrate the demands of career and family is good policy for both employers and employees. Paid family leave for mothers and fathers, a flexible workplace, and safe and affordable childcare are essential to this nation’s ability to attract and retain the best and the brightest.

The United States is currently one of only three countries, including Lesotho and Swaziland, that does not offer some form of paid leave for workers. Currently, only 40 percent of the U.S. workforce is covered by the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which permits up to 12 weeks unpaid time off for medical and family issues. In fact, a mere 12 percent of U.S. employees have access to paid leave through their employers.

Work-life integration issues are having demonstrable impacts, particularly on the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce. In the largest global survey ever undertaken about work-life integration issues among scientists and researchers worldwide, the Association for Women in Science (AWIS) found serious issues (including paid parental and sick leave concerns) that challenge employers’ capacity to retain scientific talent, to sustain innovation within the STEM workplace, and to keep both women and men engaged in research endeavors. Nearly 40 percent of women respondents said they had delayed having children because of their careers, while 27 percent of males indicated the same situation. Most respondents noted they could not afford to start a family with their current income, as lack of paid time off and safe and affordable childcare were beyond their reach.

We are pleased to see President Obama giving strong support to the case for improved family-friendly policies in all workforces. We join the president in urging on not only the U.S federal government, its contractors and funding agencies, but also all workplaces to pursue the productivity benefits available through creating workplace cultures that accommodate holistically the work/life dimensions of the workforce.

Science and Technology Priorities for the FY16 Federal Budget

Now that President Obama’s FY2016 budget has been sent to Congress, we are keeping a vigilant eye on the federal budget process. Our nation needs a budget with sustainable research and development funding so we can continue to grow our national economy through innovation and invention. The budget’s science and technology priorities include:

  • Advanced manufacturing
  • Basic research
  • Healthcare R&D
  • Precision medicine
  • Agriculture R&D
  • Reforming the research and experimentation tax credit
  • Clean energy investments

The president’s budget provides $146 billion for research and development overall, reflecting a six percent increase over 2015 levels, and includes a 3 percent increase for basic and applied research.

At the same time, President Obama is proposing to end sequestration. If this does not happen, research funding could reach its lowest levels since 2002 (excepting when sequestration was in full effect in 2013). With the fiscal constraints the nation currently faces, trying to get the discretionary spending caps raised will be a hard road to follow in the 114th Congress. In the past, spending caps, as dictated by the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011, have been raised and lowered more than once. Although President Obama’s FY15 budget was within the discretionary spending limit, he submitted a supplemental budget request that was rejected.

SWE is committed to maximizing the contributions of woman in the STEM fields by advocating for research funding, STEM job creation and an innovative and inclusive STEM workplace that includes family friendly policies. We want you to have all the tools and information you need to not only conduct your work, but to also be in conversation locally and nationally about how the federal government is doing.

Below is the general timeline for the budget process. Spend some time combing through the president’s budget for those areas that are critical to your work. Is allocated funding sufficient for NSF, NIH, DOE or any of the other funding agencies that support you? Are the projects that you think are essential for the Nation’s current needs included? Talk to your representatives and ask how these can be included. Let us know and we’ll advocate for the same at the national level.

Budget timeline:

  • Feb. 2, 2015: Deadline for President Obama to submit FY16 budget request to Congress.
  • April 15, 2015: Deadline for Congress to provide budget resolution to Appropriations Committees.
  • Oct. 1, 2015: Deadline for Congress to pass appropriations bills or pass a continuing resolution.

It's Official:There are More Entertainers in the Senate than Scientists.

According to CQ Weekly, there are currently two actors/entertainers in the Senate. This means that there are currently more actors in the senate than there are scientists. What does that mean for the United States?

It means that strange events occur—like the vote on Wednesday, Jan. 21, when the U.S. Senate finally, nearly 10 years after An Inconvenient Truth came out, voted to confirm that they believe climate change is real and not a hoax. As this was an amendment to the Keystone XL Pipeline bill, the Senate was essentially strong-armed into this position. One can only imagine what kind of language will be used later on to deny this vote. Members of congress have recently been deflecting issues about climate change by simply stating that they are not scientists. That’s not OK. Not OK to shutdown discussions and decision, deflecting questions, and not OK that there aren’t more scientists and engineers in Congress.

Currently, there are only two STEM PhDs in Congress: Representative Bill Foster (D-IL), who is a physicist serving on the Committee on Financial Services, and Representative Jerry McNerney (D-CA) who has a PhD in mathematics and is a renewable energy engineer. He’s serving on the Committee on Energy and Commerce. Furthermore, there are only seven engineers in Congress. That’s it. No wonder a good many of the science and technology committees are not lead by scientists or engineers.

According to the Congressional Research Service, there were 6.2 million scientists and engineers employed in the U.S. in 2012, accounting for 4.8 percent of total U.S. employment. Of these, 25 percent were engineers, 4 percent physical scientists and 2 percent mathematicians. I am not trying to say we are underrepresented in respect to demographics. I am just saying that there is a significant talent pool to draw on, and that the perspective of STEM professionals is sorely needed on Capitol Hill.

Fellow scientists and engineers, this one is on us. There is clearly a need for us to contribute our skills and experience to solving critical issues in Congress. SWE advocates on behalf of women in STEM and also wants you to be engaged in advocacy as well. You may not want to run for Congress, but you can make sure that your representatives understand the STEM background before they get into debates and decision making. Either way, it is important to use your voice.

And don’t get me wrong, I like Senator Al Franken as a comedian and an elected official. He’s good enough, smart enough and a lot of people like him. But let’s get a few more scientists and engineers to Washington to work with him.

Yvonne Rodríguez
Government Relations & Public Policy Associate

Join Us in DC to Meet with Your Congressional Representatives

The first session of the 114th Congress began this week with a flurry of activity amidst D.C.’s first snowfall. John Boehner was re-elected as speaker of the house with only 25 members dissenting. New rules were confirmed, including changes to dynamic scoring, which asks the congressional budget office to include potential economic effects of proposed legislation. Hundreds of bills from the 113th congress were re-introduced to the 114th.

This congress is said to be the most diverse yet. 19.4 percent of the members are women, 6.9 percent are Hispanic, 2 percent are Asian and 0.3 percent are Native American. Also, the first African American republican woman to be elected to congress, Rep. Mia Love, is now representing Utah’s 4th district. Though this does not get us to full representation of these groups by any means, we can celebrate the diversity that we have while still remaining acutely aware of the barriers to broadening participation.

Of the new members, there is one engineer: Rep. Bruce Westerman from Arkansas. For some of the returning members, this is definitely their last go-around. Sen. Barbara Boxer announced today that she will be retiring at the end of this term.

The Affordable Care Act, immigration policy, Keystone Pipeline, 2016 presidential campaign and the budget for the Department of Homeland Security (which expires late February) seem to be inundating the headlines; however we will continue to draw attention to those issues that are at the nexus of gender and STEM. In fact, SWE will be hosting our annual Capitol Hill Visit events this March and we hope you will join us in meeting with members of the 114th Congress here in D.C.

SWE members will have a chance to meet with their representatives during our annual SWE Capitol Hill events in March. SWE members are invited to attend:

March 18
Congressional Visit Training (1-4:30 pm)
Congressional Reception (5-7:00 pm)

March 19
Congressional Breakfast (8:30-10:00 AM)
Visits with Congress (10:00 AM)

During the training, representatives from the U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) will be presenting on the federal budget process, the culture on Capitol Hill, communicating with congress both online and in person, how policy is made and how and when SWE members can influence outcomes. For questions, please contact Nikki Grant. Registration information will be sent out soon.

Bipartisan Efforts in the 113th Congress Enable Plan for the Creation of a National Women’s History Museum

It took 15 years, but the National Women’s History Museum (NWHM), a 501(c)(3) organization founded in 1996, has finally scored a victory in its effort to build a world-class museum on the National Mall. NWHM is dedicated to “preserving, interpreting and celebrating the diverse historic contributions of women, and integrating this rich heritage fully into our nation’s history.”

The legislation was co-sponsored by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).

Though HR863 passed in the House in May and S398 in the senate last week, this legislation has been introduced and failed every year since 1999. In 2010, comments from the opposition said it “duplicates more than 100 existing entities that have a similar mission,” referring to a list of entities that included the Quilters Hall of Fame in Indiana and the National Cowgirl Museum in Texas.

Though there was opposition to the idea of a National Women’s History Museum this year, the bill was embedded in the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act and was passed. Both the commission and the museum will be privately funded. NWHM is committed to hiring a female architect, which will make this the first museum on the National Mall designed by a woman. Once the museum is established, NWHM will apply to become a Smithsonian affiliate. Currently, NWHM maintains online exhibits on their website.

In November, SWE took part in a NWHM event entitled, Breaking In: Women & STEM, Then and Now. This was a program that examined the historical and contemporary aspects of women’s participation in STEM education and careers as well as its impact on American society. Presenters included professor Regina Morantz-Sanchez from the University of Michigan History Department, Eleanor Clift, contributing editor for Newsweek and blogger for The Daily Beast, Mimi Lufkin, CEO of the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE) and Becky L. Schergens, national advisor, NWHN.

Joan Wages, NWHM’s President & CEO commented, “The bipartisan nature by which this legislation was introduced and passed serves as testament to women’s ability to set aside differences and come together to work for the common good. It is what women have done throughout history.”

SWE will continue to work with the coalition, contributing our knowledge and expertise to help develop the museum’s exhibits, which will feature the history of women in STEM. The White House recently developed a campaign entitled The Untold History of Women in Science and Technology. You can share your history on their website and you can also send your stories to us.

On Time FY16 Appropriations Legislation

Before the close of 2014, President Obama signed a $1.1 trillion spending bill delivered to him by congress. There was a collective sigh of relief, as we all went into the holidays knowing that our government would not shut down. The sole exception, as you know, is the Department of Homeland Security, which is provided with operating expenses until February 2015. This gives everyone time to gear up for the next clash on immigration policy.

Funding provided in the bill for R&D is keeping pace with inflation. That’s good news. It was great to see the wheels turning in D.C., however we were left with an uneasy feeling as it seemed that almost every day we were learning about the last-minute, unrelated provisions being added to the legislation, legislation that is often referred to as 'Christmas Trees.'

How can one keep track of all the riders converging into a 1600 page, critical, time-sensitive bill? We were grateful to those who were sounding the bell (see video) and letting us know that the spending bill included breaks for banks and risks for taxpayers, though there didn’t seem to be anything anyone could do about it.

It’s great when your special interest issue is introduced. For instance, we are happy the National Women’s History Museum Commission was added to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015, but not happy that provisions for Apache land to be given to a foreign mining company were included. To some of us, these bait and switch actions were happening so fast it was challenging to keep up.

It doesn’t take a policy analyst to understand how the US budget found itself in the middle of a last minute, must-pass bill. This thing should have been “must-passed” back in September. We are all for compromise and negotiation, but let’s try to do that before the deadlines so that we can all participate in the debate and weigh in on the discussions about compromises and priorities. Also, agencies can run much more efficiently when they have timely information to construct their annual plans.

We are counting on the 114th Congress to make sure that FY16 appropriations bills are on time. President Obama release his FY16 budget on Feb. 2 and Congress will hopefully have their bills put together by May. That should give plenty of time for negotiation.

And by the way, here are some things that we believe are time-sensitive, must-pass pieces of legislation:

  • Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) (S.J. Res. 10) Proposes an amendment to the constitutions that prohibits denying or abridging equality of rights under the law by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
  • Family and Medical Leave Act of 2013 (S.1810, H.R. 3712) Provides paid family and medical leave benefits to certain individuals.
  • Paycheck Fairness Act (S.2199, H.R. 377) Amends the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to provide more effective remedies to victims of discrimination in the payment of wages on the basis of sex.
  • Campus Accountability and Safety Act (H.R.5354) Amends the Higher Education Act of 1965 and the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act to combat campus sexual violence.

Title IX Principle Author Receives Presidential Medal of Freedom While U.S. Department of Education Investigates Title IX Complaints

The Presidential Medal of Freedom was awarded to Patsy Takemoto Mink last week. Wendy Mink accepted the award on behalf of her mother, who passed away in 2002. After her passing, House members paid tribute to her by renaming Title IX the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act.

Mink, the first woman of color to be elected to congress, served 12 terms representing Hawaii’s 2nd district. The Medal of Freedom is the Nation’s highest civilian honor, “presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.” As can be seen in a trailer for a soon-to-be-released documentary about her, she is quite inspiring. She was a principle author of Title IX.

“I am tired of explaining it’s not just about athletics,” Mink once told a reporter. Indeed, many people still do not know that it’s not just about sports. Title IX, signed into law by President Nixon in 1972, states “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

A database of more than 7,500 Title IX complaints received and closed by the Deptartment of Education’s (DOE) Civil Rights Office between 2002 and 2014 was published by the Harvard Crimson, revealing that very few resulted in policy changes. This past May, the DOE released a list of open Title IX investigations. While we applaud the DOE’s efforts, clearly something is missing from the communication chain. Why is it that after 22 years after Title IX was enacted, women’s full access to education is still being obstructed in this way in institutions across the country? Why is it that one in five college-aged women are sexually assaulted while at college?

The SWE Government Relations and Public Policy (GRPP) Committee has posted the SWE Title IX Position Statement. SWE is also a part of the National Coalition on Women and Girls in Education (NCWGE), who put out a report (Title IX at 40) detailing its history. As we ramp up for the 114th Congress we are keeping our eye on these investigations and fully expect to see more major policy changes like the legislation signed by California Governor Jerry Brown, which requires colleges to adopt policies that shift the burden of proof to the accused. Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout any sexual encounter.

In July H.R. 5354, the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, was introduced with the intent to “amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 and the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act to combat campus sexual violence, and for other purposes.” It was referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and the House Judiciary Committee. We need to let the members of these committees know what we think.

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