October 17, 2017

Cortez Masto, Capito Introduce Legislation to Encourage Young Women to Pursue STEM Education

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) released the following statement announcing Code Like a Girl Act, legislation that will create two National Science Foundation (NSF) grant programs to encourage young girls to pursue computer science. A companion bill, H.R. 3316, was introduced by Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) in the House of Representatives.

“The idea that science, tech, engineering or math are gendered is patently false, and we must take a proactive approach in dispelling gender roles in areas where we can improve participation among women,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “I am proud to introduce this legislation with Senator Capito to help encourage young girls pursue an education or career in STEM, so that we can foster the talent of our future leaders in science and technology. We must continue to support young women and remind them there is no limit to their potential and that careers and interests are not determined by gender. Code Like a Girl will help women thrive and compete in a male-dominated industry, but more importantly, it is a step in the right direction toward closing the gender gap.”

“The tech industry provides so many opportunities for students and workers to pursue great jobs and really play a role in shaping and driving our economy. Unfortunately, despite the progress made in recent years, girls and women remain seriously underrepresented in STEM classrooms and professions,” Senator Capito said. “The Code Like a Girl Act will help more young women see the opportunities available to them through computer science and other STEM fields, helping them realize at an early age their incredible potential and empowering them to follow their dreams.” 

“Nevada’s young girls should be encouraged to participate in and pursue computer science activities at all grade levels. This bill will not only be a significant step forward in helping us close the gender gap in vital STEM fields, it will help turn our state’s young girls into the successful leaders and visionaries of tomorrow,” said Dr. Thom Reilly, chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education.

“Currently, women are vastly underrepresented in technology. According to Pew Research, in 2016, women comprised only a quarter of America's tech workforce, and that needs to change because everyone benefits when girls are invited to have a seat at the keyboard,” said Megan Bullock, co-founder of MESH Design & Development in Charleston, West Virginia. “STEM education, and creativity in coding and computer science, is an opportunity for girls to not only learn how to code, but to learn how to take risks, solve problems, and build the confidence that combats what Girls Who Code founder Reshma Saujani calls the 'bravery deficit' through growth, vulnerability and resilience. The Code Like a Girl Act empowers young women to be the builders and leaders of our future by closing the gender gap and encouraging girls to bring their creativity and empathy into the fields of science and technology.”

“Support of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) is essential to student learning in our world today,” said Pat Skorkowsky, Superintendent, Clark County School District. “I am so pleased that Senator Cortez Masto is sponsoring this Code Like a Girl bill that will build programs where students can be engaged in a rigorous curriculum, designed to stimulate potential, interest, and creativity, while simultaneously promoting academic achievement through the study of STEM disciplines. Code Like a Girl will be a welcome compliment to the Clark County School District’s efforts to increase participation in STEM programs for girls and minority students."

“Washoe County School District has had programs in our district that demonstrate support for such programs included in the bill such as work with Microsoft, DigiGirls, and Code.org,” said Dr. Kristen McNeill, Washoe County School Deputy Superintendent. “We are in favor of any type of legislation that allows more access and funding for programs such as this. It helps with our entire workforce development needs in our region especially.”

Code Like a Girl Act will:

  • Create two National Science Foundation (NSF) grant programs to encourage young girls (10 and younger) to pursue computer science.
    • A research grant to increase understanding of the factors that contribute to the willingness or unwillingness of young girls to participate in STEM activities.
    • A testing of scalable models grant to develop and evaluate interventions in pre-K and elementary school classrooms that seek to increase participation of young girls in computer science activities from the earliest ages.