The Women and Minorities in STEM Booster Act of 2019 is a bill that aims to increase opportunities for historically underrepresented demographic groups, such as women and minorities, in fields related to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The bill authorizes the National Science Foundation to spend up to $15 million per year through 2024 to award grants for activities intended to increase the participation of women and minorities in the STEM workforce. These activities may include workshops, mentoring programs, internships, outreach programs, and faculty recruitment programs. For the purpose of this bill, “minority” is defined as any ethnic group that is underrepresented in STEM fields as compared to the White, non-Hispanic population.
The bill cites several reports that have identified difficulties faced by women and minority groups in STEM fields. According to the 2013 American Community Survey Report on STEM employment, women compose only 26% of the STEM workforce in the United States. In addition, women are more likely than men to switch away from STEM majors as undergraduates, and 52% of women who enter a STEM career will leave this job within ten years.
Minorities also face disparities in STEM fields. Latino, African-American, and Native American undergraduates are less likely to finish a STEM degree within five years than their White and Asian peers. People from some minority groups, such as Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, are also less likely to be employed in STEM than the general American workforce, and are more likely to leave STEM jobs.
The Women and Minorities in STEM Booster Act of 2019 accompanies several other bills that aim to expand STEM opportunities for underrepresented groups. These include the Computer Science for All Act of 2019, the 21st Century STEM for Girls and Underrepresented Minorities Act, the Indigenous STEM Professional Development Act, the Supporting Minority STEM Student to Career Act, and the Ronald V. Dellums Memorial Fellowship for Women of Color in STEAM and National Security Act. Relatedly, in early 2020, the Supporting Veterans in STEM Careers Act was signed into law.