Recruiting and Retaining Women in STEM

On December 9th at 3:30pm, the White House will honor individuals who help to recruit and retain “Women in STEM,” or Science-Technology-Engineering-and Math, as this week's “Champions of Change.”

President Obama has made it a priority to recruit and retain women in STEM in his Administration as well. Leading up to this Friday’s event, we will be featuring a number of key women in STEM in the Obama Administration, beginning with our fantastic EPA Administrator (and Engineer!), Lisa Jackson.

Lisa Jackson

Since being named President Obama’s cabinet member in charge of environmental protection, EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson has been named one Newsweek’s “Most Important People in 2010,” featured on Time Magazine’s 2010 and 2011 lists of the “100 Most Influential People in the World”, listed in Essence Magazine’s “40 Women Who Have Influenced the World,” and profiled in O Magazine for her work to protect our nation’s air, water and land from pollution that threatens human health.

Jackson leads EPA’s efforts to protect the health and environment for all Americans. She and a staff of more than 18,000 professionals are working across the nation to usher in a green economy, address health threats from pollution in our air, water and land, and renew the public’s trust in EPA’s work.

Background: From New Orleans to New Jersey

Raised a proud resident of New Orleans, Louisiana, Administrator Jackson is a summa cum laude graduate of Tulane University and earned a master’s degree in chemical engineering from Princeton University. In 2011, she received an honorary doctorate degree from Florida A&M University. She has also received an honorary law degree from Pace Law School.

She started with the EPA as a staff-level scientist in 1987 and spent the majority of her career working in EPA’s Region 2 office in New York. In 2002, Jackson joined the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and was appointed Commissioner of the agency in 2006.

Priorities and Accomplishments as Administrator

Administrator Jackson has pledged to focus on seven priorities for EPA’s future: taking action on climate change; improving air quality; cleaning up our communities; protecting America’s waters; assuring the safety of chemicals; expanding the conversation on environmentalism and working for environmental justice; and building stronger state and tribal partnerships.

As a scientist herself, Jackson has vowed that EPA’s efforts will follow the best science, using it as “the backbone for EPA programs.” She has also ensured that EPA adheres to the rule of law and acts with unparalleled transparency.

Administrator Jackson has outlined principles to modernize our nation’s 30-year old chemical management laws, called for unprecedented innovation in drinking water protection efforts and announced tough standards to clean the air we breathe.

And in response to the greatest economic downturn since World War II, EPA invested in job-creating environmental protection projects across the country. Those investments led to cleaner communities that are more competitive in the race to attract jobs, while also encouraging the development and use of innovative environmental technologies."

In December of 2009, Administrator Jackson announced an endangerment finding on greenhouse gases, setting the stage for EPA action on climate change. To date, EPA has taken a number of common sense strategic steps, including clean air standards designed to reduce emissions from large facilities without burdening small businesses, and a clean cars program – crafted in collaboration with the Department of Transportation and the auto industry – that will make American vehicles more fuel-efficient than ever before.

Expanding the Conversation

As the first African-American to serve as EPA Administrator, Jackson has made it a priority to expand outreach to communities that are historically under-represented in environmental action. The EPA has stepped up protection for vulnerable groups including children, the elderly, and low-income communities that are particularly susceptible to environmental and health threats. Administrator Jackson has promised all stakeholders a place at the decision-making table.

Facing Today’s Challenges

These efforts continue alongside Administrator Jackson’s work in response to the Deepwater BP oil spill. This spill impacts a region that Jackson calls home, and she is dedicated to both the short- and long-term recovery efforts. President Obama recently appointed her to lead the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Taskforce. She has visited the area numerous times, and is working closely with federal, state and local responders to protect the health, environment and economy of the area.

Jackson now resides in Washington D.C. with her husband Kenny and two sons, Marcus and Brian.

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