WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV), a member of the Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation and Committee on Health, Education, Pensions, and Labor, participated in a panel discussion hosted by Girls Who Code, a nonprofit organization which aims to bridge the gender gap in technology and increase the number of girls and women in computer science. During the discussion, Senator Rosen spoke about her own experience as a computer programmer, as well as legislation she has worked on in both the House and the Senate to increase opportunities in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math for young children, including investing in programs to increase the participation of girls in computer science.
“Before I came to Congress, I worked as a computer programmer and a systems analyst. I experienced first-hand what it was like, and still is like, working in what’s long been considered a male-dominated industry. I witnessed wage discrimination and the difficulties that come with challenging gender stereotypes in the fields of science and tech,” said Senator Rosen. “Now, I sit on the Commerce and HELP Committees in the Senate, and I’m using my voice to increase access to STEM education for all, especially our young girls.”
BACKGROUND: Earlier this year, Senator Rosen introduced the bipartisan Building Blocks of STEM Act alongside Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), and Deb Fischer (R-NE). The bill would create and expand upon STEM education initiatives at the National Science Foundation (NSF) for young children, including new research grants to increase the participation of girls in computer science. This bipartisan legislation passed the Senate Commerce Committee earlier this year. In the House, Congresswoman Haley Stevens (D-MI) and Congressman Jim Baird (R-IN) – respectively, the Chair and Ranking Member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee’s Subcommittee on Research and Technology – have introduced companion legislation to the bipartisan Rosen bill.
Studies have found that children who engage in scientific activities from an early age develop positive attitudes toward science and are more likely to pursue STEM expertise and careers later on. Last Congress, Rosen introduced similar legislation to focus NSF STEM education programming on young children and to award grants to encourage young girls to pursue computer science learning. The bipartisan Building Blocks of STEM Act (H.R. 3397), introduced in the 115th Congress by then-Representative Jacky Rosen and Representative Steve Knight (R-CA), would direct NSF to more equitably distribute funding for early childhood education in its Discovery Research PreK-12 program, which seeks to enhance the learning and teaching of STEM and address the immediate challenges that are facing PreK-12 STEM education. Currently, the Discovery Research PreK-12 program focuses the majority of its research on students in middle school and older. This year’s Senate bill also includes Rosen’s bipartisan Code Like a Girl Act (H.R. 3316) from the 115th Congress, which would direct NSF to award research grants to increase understanding of the factors that contribute to the participation of young girls in STEM activities and to develop interventions in pre-K and elementary school classrooms to increase the participation of young girls in computer science. Last Congress, Rosen’s combined package of STEM education bills unanimously passed the House but failed to receive a vote in the Senate.
The Building Blocks of STEM Act is endorsed by Girl Scouts of the USA, Save the Children Action Network, American Association of University Women (AAUW), Girls Who Code, National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE), National Organization for Women, Stop Sexual Assault in Schools (SSAIS), Girls, Inc., BSA The Software Alliance, the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), Code.org, BlackRidge Technology, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), Third Way, Center for Excellence in Education (CEE), CompTIA, TechNet, Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), Common Sense Kids Action, and ISACA.