Think about it. Breaking the glass ceiling and advancing science go hand-in-hand. If we can get more women and girls - maybe half the world's population - studying science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), we have more chances to solve major global crises, from disease to arms control, from communications to health. Getting ahead on STEM is a challenge worth taking on.
Over coffee one day, we decided that we would do our part to address this challenge. The answer, we believed, was self evident: We need to recruit greater numbers of young people to enter the fields of STEM so that we can extend our budding talent pool. And we must reach out to the 50 percent of our population traditionally constrained from pursuing careers in science: women.
That is what motivated us to create two programs, both launched on December 19, dedicated to removing barriers to career advancement for women and encouraging young women to pursue the key disciplines of national security. The first is the “RT Girls! Program” - the letters referring to our respective Office designators. The program, designed to encourage girls in STEM and international security, was launched at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology in Virginia.
Before a student group called Tomorrow's Women in Science and Technology (TWIST), we related our educational and professional experiences, and shared our convictions: America needs the kind of innovation and skill sets that these young women are acquiring, to be more competitive in today's global economy. We will also need these skills to maintain our security. From working for global nuclear disarmament to fighting maritime piracy to cyber security, the future of international security is demanding - and the need for committed people imperative.
We also had the opportunity to hear students' accounts of their own STEM-related projects, ranging from rockets to neuroscience to climate change research.
The event at Thomas Jefferson was vibrant and productive, and we plan to expand our outreach beyond additional high schools in the area, nationally and internationally.
Recognizing the obstacles that women working in these fields face, we also launched the “RT Women's Lecture Series” - a series of quarterly events engaging women in public diplomacy and international affairs, focused on removing professional barriers in information, technology, arms control, and science sectors. The first lecture - “Cracking the Code: Breaking Down Barriers to Advancement and Promotion for Women” - featured Meg Gottemoeller, Executive Director of Member Engagement and Human Capital at the Conference Board.
Attendees included women and men working in hard security fields, think tanks, on Capitol Hill, and Embassy Row. The roundtable discussion was lively and the questions posed to the group by the speaker were not easily answered. Nevertheless, the group came away charged to build on past successes to help women to advance, adding critical value to these important fields.