Why Closing the White House Scientific Department Is Bad News for Women
The White House science division is no more. The last three members of the science division of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) closed the door on June 30, and one marked the moment with an epic tweet: “science division out. mic drop.”
While there are 35 remaining OSTP members across all departments, it’s a big drop from the more than 100 staffers the office employed during the Obama administration.
We know this administration has a controversial relationship with science. Climate change skeptic Scott Pruitt runs the Environmental Protection Agency, and President Trump created an uproar when he recently announced that the US would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.
So why are we talking about this? Well, this closure could really affect women, and not in a great way. This was the department that led policy for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields, biotechnology, and crisis response. Women in tech are already a minority, with only 25 percent of computer jobs being held by women. Now that the White House OSTP department has closed, we’ve lost a key authority to help recruit and keep women in STEM careers.
The timing is not great. We’ve all been following the ongoing conversations about the toxic culture that Silicon Valley’s tech bro culture can foster — most recently, workplace scandals at Uber that culminated in CEO Travis Kalanick’s indefinite leave of absence. One of the reasons that this anti-woman culture is able to flourish is because girls and women aren’t entering STEM fields as often as men. Those that do are leaving in droves due to harassment and the dude-bro atmosphere.
But here’s the really important part: Fewer women in these fields means bad news for the rest of us. Simply put, a diverse field means a diversity of experience and perspective to enrich innovation. Not having that diversity in place can be literally deadly.
Think we’re kidding? Women were killed by the first generation of airbags because the designers and engineers forgot that women are generally shorter than men and are closer to the steering wheel. For decades, heart disease and heart attacks were considered a guy’s problem and, as such, most research focused on them and not enough on women.
Without women in these fields, a lot of medical, scientific, and technological research might omit us. Change usually comes from the top down, but with no one at the science division of the OSTP to create change, women are the ones who will lose out.
What’s your take on the future of women in STEM? Tell us @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)