More than 6,000 scientists, engineers and other experts are urging Congress to increase opportunities for women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
A letter to be presented to Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and George Allen, R-Va., says Congress should work to break down barriers that make it harder for women to fully participate in mathematics, engineering and other hard-sciences.
"Increasing the ranks of our nation's math and science experts is key to technological leadership in the world and to national security here at home," said Carol Muller, president and founder of MentorNet, an advocacy group that helps women enter science and engineering fields.
The letter was to be presented Wednesday. A copy was obtained by The Associated Press.
The letter said a recent controversy sparked by Harvard President Lawrence Summers "has helped shed light on the persistent under-representation of women in these important fields. Now, more than ever, our nation will rely upon its scientists, mathematicians, and engineers for its economic health and national security."
Summers drew widespread criticism after suggesting in January that intrinsic differences between the genders may partly explain the dearth of women in top science and engineering jobs.The letter was being presented to Wyden and Allen because they co-chaired hearings on women in science before a Senate subcommittee on science and technology.
Wyden and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., last year requested a report looking at whether women are receiving equal opportunities in math, science and engineering under Title IX of the Education Act. The report by the Government Accountability Office found inadequate federal enforcement of Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in all aspects of federally funded education programs, including academics.
"At a time when our country is in need of more scientists and engineers, and when women and girls are most underrepresented in the hard sciences, the time to close this gender gap is now," Wyden said.