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Congress asked to raise chances for women in hard sciences

Thu., May 12, 2005

WASHINGTON – More than 6,000 scientists, engineers and others experts Wednesday urged Congress to increase opportunities for women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

A letter presented Wednesday to Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and George Allen, R-Va., said Congress should work to break down barriers that make it harder for women to fully participate in mathematics, engineering and other hard sciences.

“Increasing the ranks of our nation’s math and science experts is key to technological leadership in the world and to national security here at home,” said Carol Muller, president and founder of MentorNet, an advocacy group that helps women enter science and engineering fields.

The letter said a recent controversy sparked by Harvard President Lawrence Summers “has helped shed light on the persistent under-representation of women in these important fields. Now, more than ever, our nation will rely upon its scientists, mathematicians, and engineers for its economic health and national security.”

Summers drew widespread criticism after suggesting in January that intrinsic differences between the genders may partly explain the dearth of women in top science and engineering jobs.

While women make up 46 percent of the overall work force, they represent just 10 percent of engineers, 29 percent of computer scientists and mathematicians, and 37 percent of those in life and physical sciences, according to the U.S. Labor Department.

The letter was presented to Wyden and Allen because they co-chaired hearings on women in science before a Senate subcommittee on science and technology.


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