Earlier today, President Donald Trump signed two bills aimed at encouraging women to enter STEM fields while flanked by sponsors of the bills, as well as Ivanka and Melania Trump. The content of the bills is, unsurprisingly, largely symbolic.
The first, Inspiring the Next Space Pioneers and Innovators and Explorers Act (INSPIRE), sponsored by Republican Representative Barbara Comstock, calls on NASA to “use programs within NASA to put young women and girls on a course toward STEM careers that will further help the space program and American businesses.” Comstock’s bill, which passed the House in a bi-partisan vote, is feel good legislation. It essentially tells NASA to “encourage” young women to study STEM fields. It also requires NASA to “submit to Congress a specified plan” outlining how current and former female astronauts can “engage” and “inspire” girls, but it does very little to address some of the broader problems with retaining women once they enter STEM. Certainly, the President can notch it as evidence of his administration’s interest in women’s issues.
The second bill, Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act, originally sponsored by Democratic Representative Elizabeth Esty, is similarly symbolic. The bill authorizes the National Science Foundation to “support entrepreneurial programs for women.” It effectively amends the Science and Engineering Equal Opportunities Act which already required the National Science Foundation to promote the research activities of women to also support extending “their focus beyond the laboratory and into the commercial world.”
In a statement today during the signing, Trump said: “It’s unacceptable that we have so many American women who have these degrees but yet are not being employed in these fields, so I think that’s going to change, and it’s going to change very rapidly.” He added that women face a particular problem in STEM, though, unsurprisingly, neither sexual harassment nor systemic gender discrimination were identified as the problems. Instead, Trump said that America needed to “crackdown on offshoring because the offshoring is a tremendous problem that displaces many of our American workers and brains, the brain power.”
Effectively, these bills seem to do very little, but they certainly provided the President a nice corrective to some of his previous photo ops, like the one where he reinstated the Global Gag Rule completely surrounded by men. At any rate, Trump added that these bills would “help American women...live out the American dream.” Ostensibly a dream where offshoring isn’t displacing the brain power. Sure, why not?