Girls gear up for big role in science future


POSTED: Friday, March 05, 2010

Last year was noteworthy for women in the workplace.

» The new federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act requires that women receive pay equal to men for equal work.

» Judge Sonia Sotoma-yor became the third woman to serve on the nation's highest court.

» The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that women on workforce payrolls in America outnumbered men for the first time, with 50.3 percent.

Gender landscapes continue to change, with women earning six out of every 10 college degrees and participating in the workforce in higher numbers than before, but females still rarely make it to the top jobs. The by-product of this dearth at the highest levels is the loss of a fertile pool of ideas, talent and experience that would enhance corporate boards, political circles and scientific fields.

Statistics tell the story: Only 15 of the Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs; of the 753 senior executives in the Hawaii Business Top 250 companies, only one in six is female, and only 16 women lead these companies.

And, according to the latest National Science Foundation data, women make up only 26 percent of our country's scientists and engineers.

In this regard, as educators, we must focus our female students on the advantages of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). We know that women have the intellectual acuity necessary to succeed in STEM fields.

With the ability to multitask and to show intensive energy in these fields, women will more strongly propel America in the race to achieve scientific advancements and maintain our strength in global competition.

Gov. Linda Lingle's administration has been promoting science, technol- ogy, engineering and math programs through our high schools. In January 2007, there were 95 robotics teams statewide; this month, more than 400 teams will be participating in the regional competition at the University of Hawaii.

The Science Symposium for Girls, sponsored by Sacred Hearts Academy and funded by foundations and local businesses, is another STEM opportunity. During the past 17 years, it has encouraged students in grades 5 through 8 to explore STEM fields with community professionals. It offers sessions with hands-on activities in career areas such as forensic science, videography, medicine, engineering and more. More than 500 girls and their parents will be at the Academy tomorrow for this annual symposium.

Scientific and math literacy is a 21st century requirement for everyone.

A foundation in math, science and technology will be a critical component if our girls are to fully participate in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Indeed, exciting opportunities to investigate cures for diseases, participate in space exploration, solve energy and environmental issues, help feed the hungry, serve family and community, and build a better world with nary a thought about the age-old gender differences in the workplace awaits our students, including our girls.


Betty White is principal of Sacred Hearts Academy, Hawaii's largest all-girls school in Kaimuki.