In 2017, frustration over an unsatisfying political climate sparked outrage and protests across the country. The Women’s March on Washington was a catalyst for a year full of activism focused on improving the lives of women across the country. On the one year anniversary of such a monumental demonstration, women and allies joined forces earlier this month for a second march. This time chanting “Power to the Polls”.
The message is clear: get out and vote. Encourage people to exercise their voting rights and challenge the politicians who don’t speak up for you. Today, women hold only 19.8 percent of Congressional seats, but that tide is turning. Statistics compiled by the Center of American Women and Politics (CAWP) out of Rutgers Eagleton Institute of Politics, state a record-breaking 481 women candidates are running for Congressional seats in the 2018 primaries.
The kickoff march took place in Las Vegas, Nevada to highlight certain issues, such as gun violence and sexual harassment accusations, that arose in this swing state in 2017. But 673 Sister Marches sprung up all around the country, at least 14 of which were held in Pennsylvania.
The State College march began at the Allen Street Gates and concluded at the Municipal Building where local leaders spoke about the challenges plaguing women in Centre County to an audience of 300-500 people. Speakers included Rep. Scott Conklin; Centre County District Attorney, Bernie Cantorna; the Centre County Women’s Resource Center Executive Director, Anne Ard; Brookville attorney, Kerith Strano Taylor; Planned Parenthood of Pennsylvania representative, Christine O’Donavan-Zavada; and board chair of Keystone Progress Inc., Ritchie Tabachnick. Former mayor Elizabeth Goreham expressed concern for health care issues, the opioid crisis, education funding and immigration issues.
All in all, the Women’s March was about advocating to put women in office who will promote a progressive and safe atmosphere to support the wide range of needs in our diverse communities. While the number of women graduating with STEM degrees has double in the past 20 years, there is still a wide disparity between men and women in STEM jobs. It’s encouraging to see that women hold around 53–59 percent of STEM positions in the life sciences, biological and medical fields; but in the many engineering, math, or computer science fields, women may hold only 8 percent of positions.
The rise in female participation in the STEM fields is in part due to the increase in minority participation. Between 1995 and 2015 the number of women in STEM positions who identified as Asian or Hispanic increased sixfold, and the number of those who identified as black more than doubled. Despite these numbers, white men accounted for 49 percent of scientist and engineer occupations in 2015. This disparity in women and minority participation in STEM fields often harbors a workplace that dismisses their expertise and tramples on their confidence.
To quote Ashanti Johnson and Melanie Harrison Okoro, “Diversity is not about filling a quota; it’s about creating a system in which all talents have an opportunity to rise and different perspectives are encouraged rather than suppressed.” We should be asking ourselves what policy decisions work to graduate, hire and retain more minority groups in STEM fields. Policies that support flexible child-care options, equal pay, paid maternity and paternity leave, protection against sex and racial discrimination and harassment, and culturally relevant science education would be terrific; but first we must elect politicians who will speak for us.
Let WE ARE for Science help you register to vote! Throughout the month of April, WE ARE for Science will be tabling around State College, PA to help students and community members register to vote. Further details will be posted in our “News” tab as it becomes available.
Join us on April 14th in D.C. for the second annual March for Science! Speak up for the science that matters to you most. WE ARE for Science will be organizing charter buses from State College to the march, and back. Click here to register.
- Women in STEM: 2017 Update, U.S. Department of Commerce
- Science and Engineering Indicators 2018, National Science Board
- Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering, National Science Foundation