Last week, at an event in New York City, 17-year-old Brittany Wenger joined Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and 12 other international leaders for the official launch of the Equal Futures Partnership, a new multilateral initiative to break down barriers to women's political participation and economic opportunity. Brittany, Grand Prize winner of the Google Science Fair, was an honored guest at the launch of Equal Futures, which seeks to ensure that more young women like her have the chance to excel worldwide.
The US contribution to Equal Futures includes a renewed commitment to opening more doors to high-quality education and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) for women and girls, who currently hold only one-quarter of all US jobs in these fields despite making up nearly half of the total US workforce. These new efforts will build upon the President’s and First Lady's repeated calls for an “all-hands-on-deck” effort to break down barriers to attracting girls and retaining women in STEM fields. On average, STEM careers offer higher earning potential and job stability than non-STEM careers. Attracting more women to these careers benefits them and also allows society to reap their full human-capital potential.
Among the steps that Secretary Clinton and the White House announced in support of attracting and retaining women to STEM careers are improving data collection and dissemination on women in science and technology, bolstering the available pool of skilled STEM mentors, encouraging research-based STEM teaching, and helping to connect women to online and mobile STEM skills training.
In addition to the steps announced by Secretary Clinton and the White House last week, the following agencies will undertake new actions in support of the Equal Futures partnership:
Additionally, a number of agencies are building upon existing efforts in support of the goals of Equal Futures:
Taken together with the commitments of the private sector and partner countries, these new steps and the Equal Futures Partnership will help to improve not only the standing and leadership of women in the United States and abroad, but also the vitality of the world's economic and political institutions.
John P. Holdren is the Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy.