Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank delivered remarks at the Global Women’s Innovation Network (GlobalWIN)’s third annual Innovation Luncheon at the Library of Congress today. GlobalWIN provides a forum for women executives and women working in academia, government and business in innovation-related fields. In her remarks, Dr. Blank highlighted the importance of women’s leadership in advancing America’s innovation agenda to compete and create jobs.
Blank emphasized that to be competitive in the 21st century, America needs to encourage students to enter science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. These fields produce many of the inventors and leaders who bring new ideas from the lab to the marketplace. Even though STEM jobs pay about 25 percent more than others, only about 13 percent of U.S. college graduates got degrees in the STEM fields. Blank affirmed that one reason America has so few STEM workers is because women are seriously underrepresented in these fields. Women make up nearly half of America’s labor force—but less than one-fourth of our STEM workforce. Some women lack information, others lack role models or mentors, while others may lack opportunity.
To provide opportunities, the Obama administration launched Educate to Innovate in 2009. This campaign brings together the federal government with private-sector partners with a particular focus on inspiring more girls, women and minorities to explore science and technology. Another example is Race to the Top, made possible by the Recovery Act. With about $4 billion in funding, Race to the Top provides competitive grants that support and reward states with high K-through-12 achievement with the only extra preference allowed in this competition is for states that focus on STEM. A third example of the president’s commitment came this week when he dedicated $100 million for a new corps of high-quality STEM teachers at 50 sites around the U.S. These teachers will get up to $20,000 on top of their base salary in exchange for making a multi-year commitment.
Blank reminded the audience that in the long run, America’s ability to innovate and compete as a nation will determine what kind of economy—and what kind of country—we pass along to the next generation.