Remarks of the Honorable Neal
Assistant to the
Science and Technology
Summit on Women in
I very much appreciate the invitation to join you today at the Summit on
Women in Engineering. It is a great pleasure for me to be here with
Sheila Widnall and Rodney Slater remarkably accomplished individuals who
exemplify the strength diversity brings to our Nation.
I know the First Lady regrets she was not able to be with you
today. And although I'm a poor second, it's an honor for me to
stand in for her. Mrs. Clinton is a very strong supporter of science,
engineering, and technology as well as women's issues. Tomorrow, in
fact, the First Lady will convene a Millennium meeting on the History and
Preservation of Science at the Lowell Observatory.
Mrs. Clinton has featured women and science in several of her Millennium
activities. At a recent Millennium evening, she cited Susan B.
Anthony's bold vision for the future:
The woman of the 20th century will be the peer of man. In
education, in art and science, in literature, in the home, the church, the
state, everywhere she will be his acknowledged equal. The 20th century
will see man and woman working together to make the world better for their
having lived. All hail to the 20th century.
In many ways, this country is moving in the direction of realizing
Anthony's vision, due to the continuing efforts of people like
yourselves. The National Science Foundation reported some positive news
last week in its 1998 report on Women, Minorities, and Persons with
Disabilities in Science and Engineering:
· The number of women and minorities enrolled and earning
undergraduate science and engineering degrees continues to
· Between 1982 and 1994, the percentage of black,
Hispanic,and American Indian students taking basic and advanced math courses
· And the gender gap in K-12 mathematics
achievement has, for the most part, disappeared.
But you have come together this week because much work remains to be
done in science and engineering, as well as other areas, if we hope to see true
equality in the 21st century. Not all of the news NSF reported was
good: despite the gains, women, minorities, and persons with disabilities
remain underrepresented in science and engineering fields.
I think we all are pretty clear about why underrepresentation in science
and engineering is a serious problem for our nation. But, let me give you three
1) careers in science and engineering are immensely rewarding, and all
Americans should have the opportunity to participate it's what
America is all about;
2) having scientists and engineers with diverse
backgrounds, interests,cultures assures better scientific and
technological results and the best uses of those results; and
we simply need people with the best minds and skills, and many ofthose are
women, many are persons with disabilities, many are black, Latino, Native
Americans, Asians, persons of all ethnic groups and nationalities.
Through this Summit, you have addressed yourselves to one of the
greatest challenges facing this nation. I hope you will share with me and
others in the Administration what you have learned in this conference, and what
you will learn as you carry out the action plans proposed today. We will
be most successful if we work together to increase participation of women,
minorities, and persons with disabilities in the science, engineering,and
technology workforce of the future.
President Clinton and Vice President Gore want every American to have
the chance to reach his or her dreams. Education and training are the
pillars of that commitment. They have asked me to advise them on what
actions the Federal government should take to build a workforce for the global
economy that reflects our great diversity. Such a workforce must include
the finest scientists and engineers in the world.
For the rest of my time with you today, I would like to discuss someof
the actions the Administration has taken through the National Science
and Technology Council and through individual agencies to help create
the science, engineering, and technology workforce of the future.
I want to take a few minutes to describe some innovative programs in
K-12 education. I will spend most of my time, though, previewing the
likely recommendations of an interagency working group formed last Fall at
President Clinton's direction. He asked for advice on how to achieve
greater diversity throughout the U.S. scientific and technical workforce.
I want to try out some of our preliminary thinking on you today.
K-12 Math and Science Education
Our first and greatest challenge is to make science accessible to all
Americans, especially our children. Our world is increasingly
technological. Science, mathematics, engineering, and technology surround
us in the classroom, the home, the boardroom, and in manufacturing, services,
and the entertainment world. Prosperity in the 21st century hinges on how
we handle this knowledge and technology and on what we do now to develop
scientific and technical talent in our youth.
We have a long way to go. Science and technology may be always
with us, but in many ways our era still resembles the situation in the1950s,
which compelled Rachel Carson to write:
We assume that knowledge of science is the prerogative of only a small
number of human beings, isolated and priest like in their
laboratories. This is not true. The materials of science are the
materials of lifeitself. Science is part of the reality of living; it is
the what,the how, and the why of everything in our experience.
All kids start out wanting to know the what, how, and why
about their world. It is up to us as parents, teachers, and
citizens to sustain that curiosity and the joy of science and math
throughout their school years. I am sure you are already familiar with
the major programs in the Department of Education and the National Science
Foundation, where the focus typically has been on broad-based reform.
Today I want to review two relatively new efforts the first a remarkable
new partnership between NSF, Education, and the National Institute of Child
Health and Human Development to conduct large scale education research; the
second a new initiative by a relative newcomer the Department of
Commerce to the K-12 education effort.
Interagency Education Research Initiative
The NSF/Education/NICHD partnership started with the recognition that
advances in education and student learning depend in no small part on
rigorousand sustained research. Indeed, state and local policymakers, as
well as school level administrators, are clamoring for information about
what works to guide their decisions. Historically,
investments in educational research have been . . . insubstantial.
President Clinton's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology
PCAST pointed out in 1997 that we spend more than $300 billion on K-12
public education each year, but we spend less than 0.1 percent of that amount
on examination and improvement of educational practice. That's far
less than what it ought to be by comparison with most any sector of industry,
and PCAST recommended significant increases to fund a large scale research
program on education in general and educational technology in particular.
In response, the Federal government launched the Interagency
EducationResearch Initiative (IERI). This year the IERI will emphasize
three key research areas:
· school readiness;
· learning core subjects,
including math and science, in the early grades; and
We expect the IERI to tell us what works
in K-12 education and how to make it work in diverse
K-12 Math, Science, and Technology Teacher
Teacher training has long been a priority for
NSF and Department of Education, and their ongoing and new programs are vitally
important. Today, however, I want to highlight a new effort by a
relatively new player in this area of growing interest the Commerce
Department's National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST).
NIST and OSTP have joined forces to address the imminent math and science
We have started a pilot program that
partners school boards with local businesses to recruit and hire math, science,
and technology teachers and provide them with a year-long salary for at least
four years. Business leaders will guarantee summer employment for the
teachers and support development of teaching methods that incorporate
The partnership builds a network for
transferring knowledge from classroom to workplace and back again. We
anticipate several benefits from this initiative:
get better math and science teachers.
· Graduates have a
better chance of securing jobs in their communities.
Companies have a better chance of getting workers with the skills they
· And teachers get more
Bringing NIST into our efforts to improve K-12
education injected new ideas and perspectives on this issue the very
result we hope for by increasing diversity throughout science, engineering, and
Next Steps for the Federal
The Federal government's interest in science
and math education does not end when children graduate from high school.
We take an interest in the science, engineering, and technology pipeline from
beginning to end. Many Federal agencies have made major commitments to
encouraging students, including women and minorities, to choose careers in
science, engineering, and technology. But it hasn't been
enough. Margaret Mead said in 1949 that:
We need every
human gift and cannot afford to neglect any gift because of artificial barriers
of sex or race or class or national origin.
The Nation not just
the federal government, but all sectors of the economy must take that
statement to heart before we are through.
So where are the
other sectors of the economy on this issue? In 1998, my office held a
dialogue for President Clinton's Initiative on Race. We convened
representatives from government, industry, and academia to discuss meeting
America's needs for the science and technology challenges of the 21st
century. Some very thoughtful observations and some models for action
emerged from that discussion. I took particular note of the comments of
Cathleen Barton, director of Partnering for Workforce Development Programs at
SEMATECH/Intel Corporation. She said, very succinctly, that education for
all is a business, economic, and workforce development imperative. She
described SEMATECH's decision to sponsor a program that would address the
projected shortage of skilled operators and manufacturing and equipment
technicians, focusing on the community and technical colleges as primary
suppliers. From June 1997 to September1997, the SEMATECH
· Increased the number of colleges offering
semiconductor manufacturing programs by 50 percent.
increased enrollment in semiconductor manufacturing programs by 110
We need more success stories like that. I
believe the Administration should engage in a national dialogue with private
industry, academia, and local government and community leaders to identify the
barriers that inhibit the full participation of women, minorities, and persons
with disabilities in the nation's science, engineering, and technology
workforce. We can work with the private sector to overcome those barriers
by ensuring that all companies that are directly dependent on the science,
engineering, and technology workforce know about best practices
that lead to increased participation of the affected groups. The
Interagency Working Group convened last Fall at the President's direction
is hard at work on building this national dialogue.
the working group to make a number of recommendations for the President's
action. It is likely we can do more, for instance, to facilitate key
transition points in education. We have some excellent models of success
to build on. A great example is the Bridges Program at the National
Institutes of Health, which helps students at two-year community colleges make
the transition to four-year colleges, and students in master's degree
programs to make the transition to doctoral programs. NSF's Advanced
Technology Education Program and Alliances for Minority Participation both
quite successful may also be transferable to other
We may also try to enhance support for
undergraduate and graduate education. Ideally this support would include
general financial aid as well as outreach and recruitment, mentoring programs,
counseling and academic support, internships, and other practical training
experiences. NSF and NIH, as well as NASA, the Department of Agriculture,
the Department of the Interior, EPA, and other research and development
agencies, have well-grounded programs ripe for expansion.
particularly want to encourage agencies to think about diversity as a part of
everything they do, not just special programs. The Department of Energy
has done this with its contracting process for the national laboratories
with great success at Los Alamos. And NSF recently adopted new merit
review criteria, which are used to identify and fund the most meritorious
research proposals. One of the new criteria addresses societal impacts,
including human resource development and contributions to increased
diversity. We have a long way to go before all agencies think this way all
We hope that our national dialogue with industry
will encourage businesses to support undergraduate and graduate education,
perhaps through privately administered funds devoted to awarding undergraduate
and graduate science and engineering scholarships to women, minorities, and
persons with disabilities. Companies and Federal agencies and
contractors should also be encouraged to form partnerships with community
colleges near their operations sites to provide students with skills needed by
them. The Los Alamos partnership with community colleges in New Mexico is
a model for action in this area.
Last, but never least, we
should conduct additional research. The federal government should take the
lead in fully understanding the dimensions of the science, engineering, and
technology human resources challenge. Research areas should include the
demographics of the science, engineering, and technology workforce, the value
of diversity in Science and Engineering research as well as applications of
technology, and barriers to participation in the science, engineering, and
To conclude my remarks, I want to cite
President Clinton, who said:
First, science and its benefits
must be delivered toward making life better for all Americans never just
a privileged few. . . . Science must not create a new line of separation
between the haves and the have-nots, those with and those without the tools and
understanding to learn and use technology. . . . Science can serve the
values and interests of all Americans, but only if all Americans are given a
chance to participate in science.
I agree with the
President, and we are taking his admonition to open science, engineering, and
technology careers to all Americans seriously. But at the same time, we
must remain an open society a society that welcomes immigrants and
visitors from foreign lands if we are to succeed at anything. . .
especially science. I want to quote one more brilliant woman, Pearl Buck,
Exclusion is always dangerous. Inclusion is
the only safety if we are to have a peaceful world.
matter how successful we are in recruiting Americans into the science,
engineering, and technology workforce, there has always been and must always be
a place for foreign workers if we are to remain the world's leader in this
enterprise. I believe this view is widely shared, and I hope that cooler
heads will ultimately prevail on Capitol Hill and we will go no further down
the path of exclusion.
I want to close by repeating what I
said at the outset about the reasons under-representation in science and
engineering of women, minorities and persons with disabilities is so important
to our nation's future.
· Everyone deserves a chance to
become a scientist or an engineer they are, without question, the most
exciting and fulfilling careers available.
· Science and
engineering are vitally important to this nation's future, and we need all
the best minds concentrated on advancing our knowledge and skills in those
· Homogeneity makes us stale we need diverse
backgrounds and perspectives to keep our lead in the Age of Innovation.
Please work with me with all of us in the White House and Federal
agencies to put the face of America on science and engineering. It
will make for a better America, and for a better world.
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