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Women Scientists Applauded on Title IX Anniversary

Women athletes and scientists today marked the 37th anniversary of a U.S. law prohibiting discrimination against women in education at a White House event during which young women were urged to go for the gold.

"The STEM environment isn’t always inclusive of women," said Betty Shanahan, executive director and CEO of the Society of Women Engineers in Chicago, Illinois, using a common acronym for the study of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. "If they don't feel they are included, they will ask the question, 'Is it worth it?' ”

A roundtable discussion was moderated by Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to President Barack Obama, and Arne Duncan, U.S. secretary of education. Although sports figures such as tennis great Billie Jean King and Olympic champion gymnast Dominique Dawes drew most of the media attention, a half-dozen scientists were in the audience.

Joyce Winterton, assistant administrator for education at NASA, explained that there is a need to help young girls know that they can excel in understanding scientific fields and go forward into applying the knowledge into meaningful careers. Girls should not be afraid to “make the effort to work harder in science and math and see how further they can go,” she said.

Several panelists emphasized the need to teach girls about successful women with STEM careers. And they agreed that, although Title IX has extended the opportunities for girls and women, society still needs to support them throughout their careers. Only then, they said, will women enjoy full equality in academia and the workplace.