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The support for scientific discovery and knowledge from the White House has been a very wishy-washy place as of late. On Tuesday, February 28th, Donald Trump signed two laws that are meant to help encourage women in STEM fields. However, this is coming from the same White House that has not only allowed Scott Pruitt, a man who has supposedly worked behind doors with the fossil fuel industry according to Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders, to become the 14th Administrator of the EPA.
The White House has also planned to cut down the EPA staffing, which would take away key components to the EPA according to the Washington Post, and plan to cut the EPA budget substantially. On top of this, a bill to possibly climate the EPA altogether was recently introduced, though that has yet to pass the House or Senate. With all this in mind, it’s a little odd to think that the White House cares at all about science, let alone helping women get into STEM fields.
That being said, the two bills were signed into law on Tuesday. They were as follows:
The INSPIRE Act: The INSPIRE Act is an act that directs NASA to promote STEM fields to girls and encourage those women to pursue careers in this direction. The full name of the act is the Next Space Pioneers, Innovators, Researchers, and Explorers (INSPIRE) Women Act. This act is giving NASA about two months time to come up with how its staff plans to encourage these young women (K-12) to pursue these careers and gain a deeper knowledge into the world of aerospace.
The Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act: The Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act was introduced back in January by Democratic Representative Elizabeth Esty. This act is meant to endorse the National Science Foundation to support programs aimed at women and entrepreneurship opportunities.
About these two laws, Trump said that “it’s not fair or even smart,” that there is such a low percentage of women in STEM. According to the Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act, Congress found that women make up less than 25% of the workforce in STEM fields, though they make up about 50% of the total workforce in America.
“That’s really going to be addressed by my administration over the years with more and more of these bills coming out and address the barriers faced by female entrepreneurs and by those in STEM fields,” Trump said.
People are, of course, skeptical about this move and any of the possible future ones that Trump had alluded to. Many scientists are gearing up for the Science March on DC, meant to be held on Earth Day 2017, in protest of some of the movements that the White House has made on the subject of STEM fields. And while Donald Trump was in the running for president, his critics often sited that his viewpoint towards women was often not very positive, and quite often something they would consider disgusting.
There’s also the question of how much good these two laws will actually do. “Encouraging” women isn’t all that needs to be done in order to get more women involved in the STEM field. And while making it so NASA and the National Science Foundation have to promote the work of women and get them involved may do something, there are numerous other scientific fields under the government’s control that might also be in need of a boost.
On top of this, government funding could also be given programs that help educate women in STEM fields, but here at FemSTEM, we don’t think that’s a possibility for Trump’s administration. This is because Trump has expressed the want to take away funding from PBS and NPR, so there isn’t much reason to believe that he would want to give government funding to other educational programs.