OSTP Director Holdren Speaks Out for Girls in Science, Math, and Engineering

OSTP Director John Holdren today participated in a roundtable discussion about gender equity in math and science education, organized by Sally Ride, the first American woman in space. The event, held at the Willard Hotel and moderated by NBC Capitol Hill Correspondent Kelly O’Donnell, was designed to bring together luminaries from the education, business, and policymaking arenas to discuss the critical need for students, particularly girls, to pursue studies and careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Dr. Ride is President and CEO of Sally Ride Science, a science education company that creates programs and products for students and teachers in elementary and middle school. As America’s first woman in space (she flew twice, first in 1983 aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger and again aboard Challenger in 1984) and as the first director of NASA’s Office of Exploration, Dr. Ride has a longstanding interest in encouraging girls to pursue coursework and careers in science and engineering.

Other participants in the discussion included Dr. Laurie Leshin, NASA’s Deputy Director for Science and Technology, and Dr. Cora Marrett, Acting Deputy Director of the National Science Foundation.

In the 4th grade, panelists noted, the number of girls and boys who say they like math and science is about the same. By 8th grade, twice as many boys as girls show an interest in these subjects. Much of the discussion focused on the need for more female role models in science and engineering. Studies suggest that because of the lack of female scientist role models in the media, many girls do not see themselves as "doers" of science.

“We need to step up our efforts in science, technology, engineering, and math education in this country, capturing and holding the interest in these subjects of more girls and boys alike,” said Dr. Holdren, the sole holder of a Y chromosome on the panel. “Getting this done is one of President Obama’s highest priorities.”

Panelists discussed the need for an "all hands on deck effort" and the contributions that everyone can make, such as getting involved in National Lab Day, one part of the President's Educate to Innovate initiative.

The panel capped a week of high-profile meetings for the OSTP Director. On Thursday he co-chaired, with Russian Minister of Education and Science Andrey Fursenko, the first full-committee meeting of the Science and Technology Working Group under the US-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission. Fursenko brought a delegation that included Ambassador Edward Malayan from the Foreign Ministry. The U.S. delegation included officials from the Departments of Energy, State, Commerce/NOAA, and Interior/USGS, as well as the NSF, NASA, and others.

On Tuesday Dr. Holdren gave the opening keynote address at a strategic planning meeting that engaged leaders from the 13 participating agencies of the U.S. Global Change Research Program, to discuss in part ongoing efforts to strengthen Administration activities in the domains of climate observations and assessment, adaptation research and planning, and climate services.

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