NASA awards $5 million to women’s colleges tackling STEM gender gap
As part of a Biden/Harris initiative, NASA will award more than $5 million in funding to seven Women’s Colleges and Universities (WCUs) to research and develop strategies that increase retention of women in STEM degree programs and careers.
The agency’s Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) created the Women’s Colleges and Universities opportunity to help women overcome obstacles and barriers to working in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.
This award seeks to address the significant national gender gap and disparate experiences of women in STEM in the United States, both in higher education and the workforce.
“This is a very exciting first; we’re making strides to close the pervasive gender gap in STEM, and Women’s Colleges and Universities are well-positioned to help drive that positive change,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy, a graduate from Wellesley College. “It’s more important than ever we have brilliant, enthusiastic people entering the workforce and ready to take on the ambitious plans and challenges ahead.”
Created in response to the White House Executive Order 14035 “Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in the Federal Workforce,” this funding opportunity asked Women’s Colleges and Universities to take advantage of their expertise by developing programs that encompass academics, research, student support, college prep, career prep, mentoring, and more. NASA explores the unknown for all, and values diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility for the future STEM and agency workforce.
The gender gap is reflected in education and workforce data. Women earn 59% of undergraduate degrees compared to 41% of men, but only 10% of women’s degrees are in a STEM field as stated by the National Center of Education Statistics. This pattern follows women into the workplace, where they represent about 47% of the workforce, but only 27% of STEM jobs as stated by the U.S. Census Bu reau. Among women of color in STEM, fewer than one in 20 are scientists and engineers. At NASA, 26% of the agency’s scientists and engineers are women.
These programs were developed to factor in gender, race, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, and other identities that can play a role in students’ career trajectories. Each awardee also will provide a guidebook of data, instructions, and best practices to serve as a blueprint for other Minority-Serving Institutions and Women’s Colleges seeking to create similar programs.
The selected institutions and their proposed projects are:
Agnes Scott College, Decatur, Georgia
Alumnae Network & Career Resources Program – STEM Support Anchored at Agnes Scott College
Alverno College, Milwaukee
Alverno College "Launching the Future”: An Intersectional Approach to Boosting Recruitment and Retention of Women in STEM Undergraduate Education
Cedar Crest College, Allentown, Pennsylvania
TOWERS – Tackling Obstacles for Women’s Engagement & Retention in STEM at Cedar Crest College
College of Saint Mary, Omaha, Nebraska
Project BLOOM for Women in STEM – Bolstering Learning, Opportunities, Outreach, and Mindfulness
Salem Academy and College, Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Soar With Salem: A Comprehensive Program to Inspire Women and Girls to Become the Next Generation of STEM Professionals
Simmons University, Boston
DREAM-WSTEM (Dynamic Research Education Academy for Mentoring Women in STEM)
Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts
Developing a Pathway to MaRS (Math Resilient Students) in STEM: A Cascading Mentorship Model
MUREP is administered by NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement (OSTEM), which creates opportunities for students to contribute to the agency’s work and grow their confidence in STEM.