Most Recent Action   Background   NSTC Report   AGI Testimony 

Update on Commission on Women and Minorities in Science (9-11-00)

As the economy becomes increasingly technology driven, some groups of the population are missing out on this boom.  Rep. Connie Morella (R-MD) and several of her colleagues passed H.R. 3007, the Advancement of Women and Minorities in Science, Engineering, and Technology Development Act, in 1998 in hopes of studying the problem and understanding what can be done to encourage women, minorities, and people with disabilities to enter the science, engineering, and technology fields.  President Clinton signed the Commission on the Advancement of Women and Minorities in Science, Engineering, and Technology (CAWMSET) Development Act October 14, 1998.  The Commission's mission statement states that it will "recommend a specific set of actions... directed toward policies and programs that can be implemented by the Congress, federal departments and agencies, state governments, private enterprise, non-profit organizations, and education institutions."

Most Recent Action
On July 13, 2000, CAWMSET released the awaited recommendations on how to improve the incorporation of women, minorities, and people with disabilities into the workforce.  At a press conference, members of the commission discussed some of the recommendations:

The full report and a brochure that summarizes some of the findings and recommendations are now available online from the CAWMSET website in PDF.

Directly after the press conference, Rep. Connie Morella (R-MD), who sponsored the original bill that established CAWMSET, chaired a House Science Subcommittee on Technology hearing to continue the recommendation roll-out.  Witnesses for the hearing included: Colonal Eileen Collins, Commander STS-93, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Houston, Texas; Dr. Gail Naughton, President and Chief Operating Officer, Advanced Tissue Sciences, La Jolla, California; Elaine Mendoza, CAWMSET Chairwomen, San Antonio, Texas; and Danica McKeller, actress and mathematics graduate from the University of California at Los Angeles.  More information on the hearing is available below.

Background and Congressional Action
President Clinton signed H.R. 3007, the Advancement of Women and Minorities in Science, Engineering, and Technology Development Act into law (PL 105-255) on October 16, 1998. Introduced by Rep. Connie Morella (R-MD) on September 9, 1997, the bill would establish a commission to study the barriers that women, minorities, and persons with disabilities face in entering and remaining in the science, engineering, and technology (SET) workforce. The commission would identify and examine the number of women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in these fields to determine the specific areas in which they are underrepresented. The commission would also research and describe the practices of employers regarding the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women in SET areas then determine if these practices are comparable to their male counterparts. Finally, within 18 months of appointment, the commission would issue recommendations to the government, academia, and private industry. A similar bill, S. 2479, was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) on September 16, 1998.

The version of H.R. 3007 that was signed into law varied slightly from the original bill, which focused primarily on women in SET, but an amendment by Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ) added minorities and persons with disabilities, two other underrepresented groups in the sciences, to the study. In addition, the composition of the commission changed to consist of seven SET businesspeople and four educators appointed by the President, congressional majority and minority leadership, and the National Governors' Association. The commission will be dissolved 30 days after submitting its report.

Before the President signed CAWMSET into law, the House Science Committee Subcommittees on Technology and Basic Research held a hearing on the bill on March 10, 1998. The bill was referred to the Committee on Education and the Workforce, which amended the bill at a markup on June 24, 1998.  Several organizations endorsed the bill, including the American Association of Engineering Societies, American Chemical Society, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers --USA.

As stipulated in the legislation, members of CAWMSET were appointed by governors and congressional leadership from both parties, as well as by the executive office.  The Commission includes ten men and women active primarily in the private sector of technology and science. Dr. Kathryn Johnson is the lone geoscientist on the Commission, who was appointed by Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (SD).  She received her Ph.D. in geology from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and, currently, works as an environmental consultant.  Dr. Johnson is currently the owner and project manager of MATRIX Consulting Group in Rapid City, South Dakota. She serves South Dakota as a gubernatorial appointee to the State Board of Minerals and Environment and is a member of the National Research Council's Committee on Women in Science and Engineering.

The Commission scheduled a series of meetings during 1999 as part of its mission to gather information on current successful programs to involve more minorities, women, and persons with disabilities into SET activities.  Information on these meetings and the make up of the commission is available at the CAWMSET website.  As part of one of these sessions on best-pratices. the American Geological Institute submitted written "best practice" testimony to the commission on AGI's Minority Participation Program (MPP). Since 1971, MPP has sought to attract ethnic minority students to careers in the geosciences by awarding scholarships to decrease the financial needs of qualified minority students, lessening the need for external employment and giving students more time to focus on their studies and related activities. Combined with active mentoring, these scholarships improve the recruitment and retention of underrepresented ethnic minority students in the geosciences. The AGI testimony can be found lower in this update.

After nearly a year of meetings around the nation to gather information, the commission spent the first half of 2000 developing and writing its recommendations for federal, state, and local governments, private sector, academe, and other organizations on ways to improve the inclusion of persons with disabilities, minorities, and women in the SET workforce.  On June 1, 2000, nearly a month before the office roll-out, the Association for Women Geoscientists hosted an open Forum and reception at the American Geophysical Union Spring Meeting featuring Dr. Kathryn Johnson, Vice-Chair of the commission.  Because the official recommendations were not published, Dr. Johnson was not able to discuss the recommendations but was able to discuss some of the information the commission gathered from its year-long series of meetings.

On July 13, 2000, the long awaited official roll of the commission's recommendations occurred.  The rollout began with a press conference attended by all the members of the commission. that was followed by a House Science Subcommittee on Technology hearing.  Representative Connie Morella (R-MD), chair of the subcommittee and sponsor of the original bill, opened the hearing by saying that "what we have here is a beginning. . . . We all agree that our nation simply cannot allow the Commission recommendations to just lay idle and collect dust. We need action."  She continued by saying that "we hope to achieve results by crafting innovative new partnerships between government, industry, and academia that will build upon the success of the Commission and continue to address the core issues and barriers preventing women and minorities from fully participating in the science, engineering, and technology workforce."  The complete text of Morella's opening statement, the written testimony of the panelists, and an archived webcast are available at the Technology subcommittee section of the House Science Committee hearing website.

The first witness was Colonel Eileen Collins, who joined the hearing via video conference from Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, and the first women to command a Shuttle mission.  She talked about what she and NASA do to help encourage girls and minorities in SET studies and to encourage them into SET careers.  Much of her testimony summarized the current activities at NASA in education, web-mentoring for students, Women's Outreach Initiative, and the Young Women of NASA Advisory Council.

Next on the panel was Gail Naughton, who was the first individual woman to be awarded the "National Inventor of the Year" by the Intellectual Property Organization.  In her testimony Naughton talked about some first steps that should be taken to help encourage women and minorities to enter the SET workforce.  "Training and support can't start too early; scholarships for special training and scientific sabbaticals for teachers in minority areas are a key first step.  Financially sponsored high school and college internships can help expose students to science in both academic and industrial environments.  Community colleges are a key target; stipends for sponsoring well known scientists who are women or minorities can offer real inspiration Better cooperation and shared faculty between 2-4 year colleges would further expose young scientists to a diverse and exciting science and engineering base.  Programs to raise awareness and encourage you scientists are key.  Scholarships and new investigator awards focused on women and minorities can play a big difference.  Let's not let one creative mind be untapped."

Elaine Mendoza, CAWMSET chair, spoke about the information the group gathere,. reviewed, and commissioned when needed on the current programs available for persons with disabilities, women, and minorities; the current representation of minorities, persons with disabilities, and women in the SET workforce; as well as the projected trends in these populations to enter the SET workforce.  Mendoza also highlighted the commission's recommendations.  In closing, she said, "Our economy will not only be positively affected by bringing more women, underrepresented minorities and persons with disabilities into the SET workforce -- but our high-tech, scientific and engineering industries will benefit from their diverse viewpoints and approaches, as well as their skills.  We can and must reinvest in our people and work together to build a strong economic future that holds promise for all Americans."

The final panelists was actress Danica McKellar, who recently graduated Summa Cum Laude from University of California at Los Angeles as a math major.  McKellar's testimony focused primarily on women and middle school education, saying that "the problems with under-representation of women in SET fields boils down to two fundamental issues, which actually effect the majority of students in all demographics, and which start in elementary and middle school: students are not prepared for SET careers and students are not even interested in SET careers."  She suggested not only that the nation needs to greatly improve out teacher preparation for elementary and secondary math teachers, but also that "math needs PR" aimed at young students to help interest them into SET careers and help "steer kids away from the fear of ridicule for being nerdy."

National Science and Technology Council Report
The Clinton Administration has launched a similar effort aimed at increasing diversity in the nation's federal science and engineering workforce. At a September 10, 1998 ceremony honoring the recipients of the 1998 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring, President Clinton directed the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) to develop recommendations within 180 days on how to achieve greater diversity throughout our scientific and technical work force. During the ceremony, President Clinton noted that "in science, engineering, and mathematics, minorities, women, and people with disabilities are still grossly under-represented, even though we are becoming an ever more diverse society...if we are serious about having the finest scientists, mathematicians, and engineers in the world, we can't leave anybody behind." He stressed the importance of mentoring to achieve this goal. Clinton mentioned that the federal government supports the work of tens of thousands of scientists, which could be a tremendous resource of mentors.

The NSTC study aims to increase mentoring by the federal government in scientific and technical fields by recommending linkages and improvements to existing federal higher education programs. It also seeks to expand federal participation with the private sector and the academic community to strengthen mentoring in higher education to ensure education and career success.  The report, entitled "Ensuring a Strong U.S. Scientific, Technical, and Engineering Workforce in the 21st Century," was release on April 11, 2000.  According to a statement released by Dr. Neal Lane, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, the report "reaches two fundamental conclusions about our science, technology, and engineering workforce: First, these workers are essential to both the private and public sectors.  In the private sector, they help propel the economy and provide valuable services.  In the public sector, scientific, technical and engineering workers support important Federal missions. Second, it is in the national interest to vigorously pursue the development of domestic science, technology, and engineering workers from all ethnic and gender groups."

AGI Cover Letter and Testimony to the Commission on the Advancement of Women and Minorities in Science, Engineering, and Technology Development

November 4, 1999

Ms. Linda C. Skidmore, Executive Director
4201 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 1280
Arlington, VA 22230

Dear Ms. Skidmore:

Thank you for the opportunity to contribute written testimony on a "best practice" related to improving the participation of underrepresented minorities in the scientific workforce. The American Geological Institute (AGI) applauds the efforts of the Commission on the Advancement of Women and Minorities in Science, Engineering, and Technology Development. AGI is a federation of 35 geoscience societies representing over 100,000 geologists, geophysicists, and other earth scientists. For nearly 30 years, AGI has supported scholarships for undergraduate geoscience majors and geoscience graduate students who are members of ethnic groups that are significantly underrepresented in the geosciences. The objective of this program is to provide financial and mentoring support to these students in order to increase the number of underrepresented minorities in the educational pipeline. Doing so is critically important to increasing the numbers of underrepresented minorities in the geoscience workforce, thus allowing us to take full advantage of all the human resources in this nation.

The attached two-page description of AGI's Minority Participation Program follows the format outlined on the commission's website. Please let me know if you or any members of the commission have any questions about this program. Again, thank you for the opportunity to share AGI's experience with the commission and best of luck with your undertaking.

Sincerely yours,

David Applegate, Ph.D.
Director of Government Affairs


CC:     Marcus E. Milling, AGI Executive Director
           Michael J. Smith, AGI Education Director
           AGI Executive Committee

Best Practices - Increasing Minority Participation in Science

 Organization: American Geological Institute, supported with funding from the National Science Foundation, corporations, geoscience organizations, and individuals.

Contacts: Dr. Michael Smith
           American Geological Institute
           4220 King Street
           Alexandria VA 22302-1502
           703-379-2480 ext. 210; 703-379-7563 fax

Target Group: Undergraduate geoscience majors and geoscience graduate students who are U.S. citizens and are members of ethnic groups that are significantly underrepresented in the geosciences: Black/African-American, Hispanic/Latino, and Native American (including American Indian, Eskimo, and Pacific Islander).

Practice: AGI Minority Participation Program

Driving Issues: Ethnic minority groups (Black/African-American, Hispanic/Latino, and American Indian) are significantly underrepresented in the geosciences. They comprise only about 4.4% of the entire professional geoscience population compared to 22.4% of the U.S. general population. The underrepresentation of minorities as geoscience professionals results from a lack of minority geoscience students in colleges and universities. In 1996, only 2.4% of students receiving geoscience bachelor's degrees were Black/African-American, Hispanic/Latino, and American Indian.

Organization need: To expand the opportunities for underrepresented racial/ethnic minority groups in the geosciences in order to create a more diverse, inclusive, and dynamic workforce. The underrepresentation reflects significant neglect of this country's human resources. The consequences of such neglect will affect the ability of the United States to improve its future global scientific competitiveness to meet the economic and societal challenges of the 21st century.

Description: Since 1971, AGI has sought to attract ethnic minority students to careers in the geosciences by awarding scholarships to decrease the financial needs of qualified minority students, lessening the need for external employment and giving students more time to focus on their studies and related activities. Combined with active mentoring, these scholarships improve the recruitment and retention of underrepresented ethnic minority students in the geosciences. Components of the program include:

1.   Recruitment: Students are recruited through a broad distribution of program announcements and posters at the high school, college, and graduate department levels, as well as to state science supervisors, editors of science and education periodicals, and geoscience, education, and minority organization meetings.

2.   Selection: The AGI Minority Participation Program Advisory Committee reviews scholarship applications and determines award recipients based on academic performance and financial need as well as potential for success as a geoscience professional.

3.   Mentoring: Each member of the advisory committee is assigned specific students to mentor during the coming academic year with a maximum of six students per member. Mentoring focuses on supporting academic retention and scholar development through contact by campus visits, telephone, and correspondence (including e-mail). Mentors can offer constructive advice about what preparation and survival skills are necessary to succeed as a geoscience student and a professional geoscientist as well as administrative follow-up within the scholarship program. They contact students at least twice each semester. Mentoring is enhanced by using program alumni who live near the students and/or have closely aligned geoscience career interests.

4.   Professional development: Students are encouraged to attend professional meetings in order to become familiar with the issues addressed by geoscience professionals and allow them to refine their skills in professional and scientific communication. Research opportunities are also encouraged.

5.   Communication: Networking among program participants and their mentors is critically important and is attained through electronic communication and annual gatherings at geoscience society meetings.

Date Started: The AGI Minority Participation Program was established in 1971 with support from corporations, geoscience organizations, and individuals. In 1989, AGI received its first grant from the National Science Foundation to enable the program to increase participation specifically focused on undergraduate minority geoscience students.

Critical Success Factors in Implementation: The program depends on financial support by corporations, individuals, organizations, and the federal government. Active participation of program alumni, especially in supporting the recruitment and support of current scholars, is also important, as is dedicated program staff.

Resources Needed to Adopt The Practice: Minimum investment is $100,000 per year with additional support required to expand the number of students supported and provide opportunities for professional development and research. Dedicated staff support is a critical resource.

Development Time To Adopt The Practice: Six months to initial scholarship recipient selection, longer for development of grant support.

Minimum Implementation Time for Impact: Given that this program supports students, the results must wait until they have completed their course of study and become integrated into the workforce, hence a minimum of 3-5 years.

Sources: Hearing testimony, Triangle Coalition, House Science Committee, CAWMSET website, press release materials, and Association for Women Geoscientists

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program at

Contributed by Kasey Shewey White, David Applegate and Margaret Baker, AGI Government Affairs, and AGI/AIPG Geoscience Policy Intern Althea Cawley-Murphree

Posted March 18, 1998; Last Updated September 11, 2000

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