Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate Committee on Science, Commerce, and Transportation passed a voice vote of the Building Blocks of STEM Act, which seeks to provide support to young girls interested in STEM fields, particularly computer science. The bicameral, bipartisan bill was introduced by Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV), who previously worked as a computer programmer and software developer before entering public service.
The bill amends the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act to direct the National Science Foundation (NSF) to expand research into factors that encourage the participation of girls in STEM. It also calls for expanded funding to efforts that support greater inclusion in early childhood and elementary STEM education through the NSF’s Discovery Research PreK-12 program.
Efforts eligible to receive greater funding specifically include those, “…developing and offering gender-inclusive computer science enrichment programs for students, including after-school and summer programs.” Other eligible programs also include those that provide mentors to female students in pre-K through elementary school, whether in-person or online.
The House version of the bill was also introduced in a bipartisan fashion by Rep. Jim Baird (R-IN) and Rep. Haley Stevens (D-MI)—which makes this legislation the first bill introduced by the freshman congresswoman.
Senator Rosen initially introduced this bill in a bipartisan fashion as the “Code Like a Girl Act” during the 115th Congress, while she was serving in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill was eventually rolled into the larger Building Blocks of STEM Act, but the bill failed to see movement in the Senate before the end of that Congress. With such broad support for the bill in this Congress, it’s likely that we will see the act pass into law this year.
Why it Matters
The goals of the programs supported in the bill ultimately seek to engage girls at critical, early ages in a systematic way in STEM fields. Research shows that girls not only have the potential to discover lifelong curiosity in STEM at an early age, but they also develop ideas early on about whether they “belong” in these fields. Getting more girls interested and feeling welcome in STEM learning environments is key to turning the tide of current rates of female participation in the STEM careers, especially technical and computational fields.
The bicameral, bipartisan support for the Building Blocks of STEM Act, shows positive momentum for the bill to pass into law. You can help increase its chances of passing by urging your representative to make it a priority. Call or email their office and express your support. You can learn more about the Discovery Research PreK-12 Program here. If you’re interested in getting involved with a mentoring program to encourage girls in STEM, consider checking out the Million Women Mentors project for opportunities in your area.