STEM Woman Leader of the Day- Maria Cantwell (U.S. Senate)
Submitted by Michael Weston-... on August 15, 2012
Maria Cantwell - U.S. Senator, Washington State
Maria Cantwell is known for being an independent and forward-leaning voice in the Senate. She is a tireless advocate and an effective legislator who routinely works across party lines on behalf of Washington's working families and businesses, the nation's environment and security, and to provide economic opportunity for Americans today and in the future.
Why do you believe STEM Education and Workforce are important to our nation?
Investing in STEM will ensure that we continue to train the best scientists, mathematicians and engineers right here in America. Workforce projections for 2014 by the U.S. Department of Labor show that 15 of the 20 fastest growing occupations require significant science or mathematics training to successfully compete for a job. It is critical to invest in our workforce to prepare our students for careers in STEM and to create jobs.
What traits do senior leaders need to effectively support and advance STEM today?
Leaders should possess creativity, curiosity and a willingness to think outside-the-box to support innovative strategies to integrate STEM into education. In order to maximize STEM-related job growth in the future, we must increase job-training and education in these critical areas today – fast. That’s going to require a more creative approach to educate the next generation of scientists, mathematicians and engineers.
In Washington state, the Meade School District is creating an alternative to the traditional high school experience that will be a new academy focused on 21st century readiness. The academy will focus on preparing students to enter a global economy that demands innovation and creativity.
What can we do to assure more women leaders in STEM?
Only about 4 percent of women who attend college pursue the field of engineering, compared to nearly 20 percent of men. We must support have to support STEM education for women at all stages of education. STEM is key to creating high-wage jobs and increasing global competitiveness. Increasing the number of women and under-represented minorities in STEM education and occupations will help us build a better future for the country.
What is your concept of mentoring and sponsorship of others for STEM careers?
Ongoing exposure and support—inside and outside of the classroom. Women need to see other women working in STEM fields, in the labs or research organizations, not just one-time exposure during a classroom lecture.
What about STEM gives you passion?
STEM provides an opportunity to create high-paying jobs in Washington state and around the nation for generations. Washington state already ranks first in the nation in the concentration of STEM-related jobs – and job demand is growing. By 2018 the state will need to fill nearly 300,000 STEM-related jobs, according to a study conducted by Georgetown University. That’s an incredible opportunity to create jobs – but only if we increase investment in STEM education today.
Of what one initiative you are most proud?
Something I’m very proud of is the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, which President Obama signed into law in January 2011.
The Act invests in STEM education and research and the the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The law also promotes education of teachers to ensure that they are equipped with current skills and credentials to teach STEM courses. I co-authored a provision in the Act to invest in clean technology research in order to help jumpstart this growing area of our economy. This provision helped support more than 100 research projects nationwide.