12:45PM Conference Call with Tina Tchen, John P. Holdren, and Subra Suresh
Today, White House Council on Women and Girls Executive Director Tina Tchen, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John P. Holdren, and National Science Foundation (NSF) Director Subra Suresh announced the “NSF Career-Life Balance Initiative,” a 10-year plan to provide greater work-related flexibility to women and men in research careers. Among the best practices that NSF will expand Foundation-wide, are ones that will allow researchers to delay or suspend their grants for up to one year in order to care for a newborn or newly adopted child or fulfill other family obligations. — maximizing current policy to facilitate scientists’ reentry into their professions with minimal loss of momentum.
“Jump-starting girls’ interest in science, technology, engineering and math—the so-called STEM subjects -- and boosting the percentage of women employed in science and engineering is not just the right thing to do but is also the smart thing to do for America’s future and the economy,” said Tina Tchen.
“Too many young women scientists and engineers get sidetracked or drop their promising careers because they find it too difficult to balance the needs of those careers and the needs of their families,” said Subra Suresh. “This new initiative aims to change that, so that the country can benefit from the full range and diversity of its talent.”
Later today, First Lady Michelle Obama will speak at a White House event about the importance of supporting and retaining women and girls in STEM careers. At this East Room event, the NSF will discuss today’s announcement about retaining women in STEM fields. Tune in to www.whitehouse.gov/live to join the event live at 4 pm EDT.
“If we’re going to out-innovate and out-educate the rest of the world, we’ve got to open doors for everyone,” said Mrs. Obama. “We need all hands on deck, and that means clearing hurdles for women and girls as they navigate careers in science, technology, engineering and math.”
NSF—which is the leading source of Federal grants for many fields of basic research crucial to US technology development and job creation, including computer science, mathematics, and the social sciences—is also calling upon universities and research institutes to adopt similar policies for their employees and grantees.
Women today currently earn 41% of PhD’s in STEM fields, but make up only 28% of tenure-track faculty in those fields. Reducing the dropout rate of women in STEM careers is especially important in the quest for gender equality because women in STEM jobs earn 33 percent more than those in non-STEM occupations and the wage gap between men and women in STEM jobs is smaller than in other fields.
NSF has launched targeted workplace flexibility efforts in the past, but the new initiative is the first to be applied Foundation-wide to help postdoctoral fellows and early-career faculty members more easily care for dependents while continuing their careers. The new initiative will offer a coherent and consistent set of family-friendly policies and practices to help eliminate some of the barriers to women’s advancement and retention in STEM careers. It will:
The Administration has been highly focused on the goal of increasing the participation of women and girls in STEM fields. The White House has encouraged and celebrated the participation of girls and women in STEM fields through initiatives like Educate to Innovate, which, among other goals, focuses on improving STEM education for underrepresented groups, including girls, and the President’s $4.35 billion Race to the Top competition, which rewards states that develop strategies to broaden the participation of women and girls and others underrepresented in science and engineering. To achieve this, states applying for these funds receive competitive preference if they demonstrate efforts to address barriers to full participation of women and girls in these fields.
The President has appointed a strong team of women leaders to his Cabinet and White House staff, including several female scientists including EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson (an engineer), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Administrator Jane Lubchenco (a marine scientist), US Geological Survey Director Marcia McNutt (a geophysicist), and Director of the Defense Department’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Regina Dugan (a mechanical engineer).
The White House has also been committed to making the government a model employer in the area of workplace flexibility. In March of 2010, The President’s Council of Economic Advisors issued its first ever report on the economic benefits of workplace flexibility, concluding that it strengthens a company’s bottom line while helping workers meet the needs of their families and stay in the workforce. The President hosted a White House Forum on Workplace Flexibility and the Department of Labor led subsequent efforts around the country to promote workplace flexibility and generate best practices in the private sector. To strengthen the government’s position as a model employer in this area, the President signed the Telework Enhancement Act, which requires Federal agencies to take a number of significant steps to promote the use of telework, including appointing a senior telework managing officer in each Federal agency.
Several independent organizations and academic associations today announced initiatives in coordination with NSF and the White House, adding momentum to a nationwide shift that promises to strengthen the US economy and job security even as it strengthens families across the country. Among them: