To help solve our nation’s challenges, we need more women in STEM

The United States currently faces a triple threat: a global pandemic, climate change and the threat of widescale cyberattacks, all in unprecedented form.

However, we can overcome these obstacles if we invest in a workforce educated in STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — and we can do that by supporting women in the field.

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Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., listens to a question during an editorial board meeting at the Las Vegas Sun offices in Henderson Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019.

According to recent data from the U.S. Department of Commerce, even though women represent nearly half of the college-educated workforce, they only hold 25% of STEM careers. Such numbers are at odds with the tremendous potential of talented women in STEM and often are the result of discouraging learning environments, structurally biased workplaces and too few prominent female role models in the fields of STEM.

The COVID-19 pandemic exemplifies the need for expanding our STEM workforce, as well as the challenges that women in STEM face. For example, even though there are numerous women scientists on the front lines working to combat this disease – advising policymakers, designing clinical trials, coordinating field studies and leading data collection and analysis – they are not nearly often enough given public credit for their work.

I witnessed this gender disparity during my own career in a once male-dominated field. Before coming to Congress, I worked in STEM as a computer programmer and saw first-hand the difficulties that come with challenging gender stereotypes in these fields. More work must be done to put an end to this gender gap, which deprives our country of talented minds.

A diverse workforce brings new perspectives into the workplace, which leads to fresh new ideas and innovation. Women scientists, coders and cyber experts are forging paths toward technological breakthroughs, cutting-edge innovations and world-changing discoveries. Problem solving is best approached through multiple unique perspectives, which is why we must address our critical shortage of women in STEM careers.

Addressing this gender disparity begins in the classroom, and many schools across the Silver State are doing incredible work providing STEM opportunities to students. To further the efforts of these valuable academies, Congress must step up its role in attracting young women to pursue STEM careers.

I’m proud to be leading the effort in Congress to provide our students in Nevada, and across the country, greater access to STEM education. Through bipartisan legislation like my Building Blocks of STEM Act, which was signed into law in December, we can fund programs to introduce STEM curriculum into early childhood education to decrease disparities in these fields.

We also need mentoring programs to support women and girls in STEM. Each month, my office highlights a Nevada Woman in STEM to promote STEM education and careers to interested students and inspire the next generation of female scientists, immunologists, researchers and computer programmers. This week, I hosted a virtual reception for the women my office has highlighted in 2019 and 2020, to honor these incredible women and to recognize their countless contributions to Nevada.

I encourage you to join me by going to my website to nominate a woman in STEM so we can continue to shine a light on Nevada’s trailblazing women who make a difference in our communities. Together, let’s continue to inspire young women to follow in the footsteps of our Nevada women in STEM.

Over the next decade, the demand for STEM workers in America is expected to grow exponentially. Let’s make sure our girls are ready. If we’re going to lead the world in creating the economy of the future, then we must break through the barriers that are holding us back from reaching our full potential.

Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., was elected to the Senate in 2018 and previously worked as a computer programmer and software developer.