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Blog Entries from August 9, 2011

Women and STEM: My Perspective, and My Story

Image of female scientists

Guest blog post by Jane Lubchenco, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator

Last week, as the administration and Congress agreed on a debt ceiling deal, those of us in the science world were reminded of another looming deficit: the lack of women with jobs – and education – in science, engineering, technology and mathematics (STEM).

According to the “Women in STEM” report issued by Commerce’s Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA), nearly half of U.S. jobs are filled by women, yet they hold less than 25 percent of STEM jobs. This is despite the fact that women with STEM jobs earn 33 percent more than women in other fields.

A country, especially one in the throes of tough economic times, needs all of the skilled brainpower it has to “win the future.”  Science and technological innovation have a key role to play in creating jobs, stimulating a robust economy and creating durable solutions to tough problems.  Women and people of color have more to offer than is currently being tapped.  Since the ESA report focuses on women, I’ll do the same here.

We at NOAA are doing our best to identify, hire, promote and engage talented people. I am surrounded by women in all stages of their careers who are pursuing their passions for science and science policy.

We have a history of distinguished women scientists working at NOAA and continue to actively seek new talent. In addition, women of distinction also fill the uppermost ranks of the NOAA leadership team.

What differentiates NOAA from other science-based institutions, and what attracts budding scientists and students to NOAA? One obvious answer is our mission to create and use cutting-edge science to provide services and stewardship—our weather, climate and ocean science enterprises.

Kids are especially intrigued and excited by weather and climate as “see and feel” phenomena that touch them daily. The same can be said for the ocean, which like space, is a largely unexplored frontier that offers the promise of adventure and discovery.

This is, in fact, what hooked me.

NOAA: Heat Wave Leads to Fourth-Warmest July on Record for the U.S.

Infographic of U.S. showing temperature differences

Persistent, scorching heat in the central and eastern regions of the United States shattered long-standing daily and monthly temperature records last month, making it the fourth warmest July on record nationally, according to scientists at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. The heat exacerbated drought conditions, resulting in the largest “exceptional” drought footprint in the 12-year history of the U.S. Drought Monitor. “Exceptional” is the most severe category of drought on the drought monitor scale. Drought conditions at several locations in the South region are not as long lived, but are as dry, or drier, than the historic droughts of the 1930s and 1950s. July NCDC report.

The average U.S. temperature in July was 77.0 degrees F, which is 2.7 degrees F above the long-term (1901-2000) average. Precipitation, averaged across the nation, was 2.46 inches. This was 0.32 inch below the long-term average, with large variability between regions. The monthly analysis is based on records dating back to 1895.  Read more of NOAA's release.

USPTO Director David Kappos Talks Innovation with Business Leaders in Florida’s Space Coast

Kappos with roundtable participants

This week, the Commerce Department's Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) David Kappos is in Orlando, Fla., to hear directly from small business leaders as part of the White House Business Council Roundtable series being held across the country. Engaging with innovators and entrepreneurs in the state’s vibrant Space Coast community, Kappos is gaining additional perspective on the regional business climate and using that feedback to identify resources, partnerships and investments that will strengthen the Space Coast economy by boosting its diversity and global competitiveness.

Touring the Kennedy Space Center and the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Simulation and Training, Kappos is observing firsthand how research centers and labs in the region are developing the cutting-edge tools and programs that will inspire the next frontier of innovation and exploration. He is also talking with area businesses about the critical steps the USPTO is taking to streamline the patent system—arming high-tech entrepreneurs in the Space Coast with the strongest and most consistent intellectual property protections to swiftly bring their innovations to the marketplace and jumpstart their companies.

Senior administration officials across the federal government have participated in several business roundtables around the country this summer to determine how the administration can best support the very businesses that are doing the innovating and hiring that will write the next chapters of 21st century growth.

Research and development being unleashed in states like Florida are the building blocks of innovation, Working together, the federal government and local partners can establish an environment ripe for small businesses to flourish, create jobs and help America win the future.