Panel Pushes Support for Women, Minorities in Technology

Panel Pushes Support for Women, Minorities in Technology

WASHINGTON — The federal government must “significantly expand” initiatives to recruit minorities and women for science and technology careers through larger Pell grants, increased support for Black colleges and other services, a bipartisan congressional panel says.
“The problem has been studied enough. Now we need action,” says Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, at the release of findings from the Commission on the Advancement of Women and Minorities in Science, Engineering and Technology Development. “It is up to us to develop plans so that students from all backgrounds are prepared for careers in engineering, science and technology,” adds Johnson, a Congressional Black Caucus member.
The panel specifically cited historically Black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions and tribal colleges as deserving of greater financial investments to recruit more students of color in these occupations. Financial help to these colleges should include institutional awards, research assistantships, traineeships and “expansion of proven programs,” the study says.
Both state governments and the federal government should provide these additional resources, the panel says.
As for student aid, commission members proposed large increases in Pell grants for under-represented students who choose to study science, engineering or technology. The panel would nearly double the maximum grant for needy students — from $3,300 to $6,418 —  for those who make a commitment to science and technology.
This part of the plan is similar to a proposal recently unveiled by Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. Bush has proposed an extra $1 billion to increase Pell grants for students who take college-level math and science courses while in high school. (See related story, pg. 8.) Both plans would signal a departure in policy for Pell, which traditionally has looked mainly at student income when setting awards.
Elsewhere, the study found that students of color and women still face many barriers to enrollment in science, engineering and technology — including long-standing biases.
“Obstacles range from discrimination and bias to the pragmatic concerns of financial constraints and family responsibilities,” says Elaine Mendoza, chairperson of the panel. She also is president and chief executive officer of Conceptual MindWorks, Inc., an applied research and software development company that is one of the nation’s fastest growing Hispanic-owned businesses.
The report has garnered the endorsement of about two dozen organizations, including the National Society of Black Engineers, the National Urban League and the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering. An 11-member panel held hearings and conducted research that led to creation of the report.    



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