This campaign proposes creating an all-women’s STEM university – a modern addition to the original Seven Sisters – focused on the cutting-edge STEM fields of Machine Learning, Automation, Robotics, and Space (or M.A.R.S.*). Funding will come entirely from private donations and, if elected, I will work to prioritize creating this in Oregon’s First District.
If we do this it would be the first all-women’s institution for advanced STEM in the country and possibly the world. It could become a beacon of opportunity for women nationally and a magnet for attracting the best talent in the world to Oregon. It offers a chance to shatter the glass ceiling in one of the last bastions of male exclusivity – the highest heights of high technology.
This proposal would not just benefit women. It could also benefit Oregonians of all ages. The innovation generated from a new institution staffed with extraordinary talent will drive new business formation, new jobs, higher wages, and a higher tax base for Oregon. It could create smart growth on the vanguard of the technologies that will be the most valuable in the 21st century. It is a means to solving our state’s political and fiscal challenges from financing a green transition to funding our public pensions.
In the 19th century, women didn’t have the right to vote and could rarely pursue higher education unless they came from wealthy families. In response, wealthy donors set up a series of all women’s colleges in the northeast with names like Wellesley (1875), Bryn Mawr (1885), Vasser (1861), Mount Holyoke (1837), Smith (1871), Radcliffe (1879), etc.
These storied institutions created the opportunity for women to go to college and laid the foundation for the Suffragette movement in America, ultimately leading to the 19th Amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote formally ratified on August 18, 1920.
Today, women represent more than half of undergraduate students on college campuses nationally. Yet, women still face a hostile, unwelcoming climate when it comes to the STEM fields outside of medical/biology. According to Catalyst, a global nonprofit, in Computer Science related fields, only 18.7% of undergraduate degrees are earned by women. In engineering, only 19.7% are earned by women. These are the fields that generate the most income and the biggest opportunities for new companies and the wealth they generate. Women face a stacked deck and are being short-changed on opportunities to prosper.
The case for the Seven Sisters is weaker today for liberal arts education. Women can get that education anywhere and are often in the majority on campuses around the country. But in STEM, women are still held back by the ‘bro culture. That’s where change needs to happen.
Women face the same challenges in Oregon that they do nationally and continue to make much less than men, especially in technology fields.
According to the Oregon Center for Public Policy, women are paid on average 82 cents for every dollar that men make in Oregon. That picture is even worse for women of color. Asian women earn just 75 cents for every dollar that men make, African American women get 70 cents, and Latina women get just 51 cents compared to men. The pay gap happens regardless of education. Women with graduate degrees earn 8.4% less than men with similar education levels.
When it comes to jobs, men dominate the STEM professions in Oregon. In engineering, men hold 80% of the jobs. In the high-paying jobs in computer and math fields, 87% of jobs are held by men. Women are getting shut out.
These numbers are common across America and reflect the barriers women face in both getting through higher education in STEM fields as well as the challenge of finding work at companies that foster a culture that is often sexist, aggressive, and male oriented.
In Oregon, we can leapfrog the problem, create high paying jobs, generate new companies, and foster new industries by attacking this problem boldly and doing something different. By proposing a new institution of higher learning in Oregon – an All Women’s STEM university – we would seize the imagination of the nation with a single bold stroke, attract wealthy donors to fund this (no public funds needed), and generate opportunities for women in Oregon and around the world.
*MARS is an acronym the Amazon Web Services people created for one of their conferences. It is short for Machine Learning, Automation, Robotics, and Space. This catchy term is broad enough to also include all of the other hot buzz terms in technology from AI to IOT. These fields collectively represent the cutting edge of innovation and the future of investment, opportunity, economic growth, and prosperity.
We need to put women at the center of these new technologies in higher education in order to gain a more equal representation in the industries, companies, and start-ups of the future.
How big are these fields going to be? McKinsey Consulting has estimated that Artificial Intelligence (which includes Machine Learning) could add nearly $16 trillion to global economic output by 2030 – less than 10 years from now! And that is just one field.
WILL THE DONORS COME?
From Sheryl Sandberg to Meg Whitman, Lauren Powell-Jobs to Mackenzie Scott, there are many prominent women who have made enormous fortunes in technology. It is a safe assumption that these women know the challenges of working in a male dominated field and are potential donors to a bold solution to this problem.
In Oregon, we can offer them a west coast location that has the advantage of being near the tech magnets of the Bay Area and Seattle, but the advantage of a more open landscape in which to build and a beautiful place to live.
A new institution of higher education is not one that needs to start out costing a fortune. It can be a start-up. It can begin with Quonset huts not monuments by globally famous architects. It can be scrappy and fast moving. It can be up and running in months not decades.
I propose an All-Women’s STEM University for Oregon and if elected I will work to locate it here in Oregon’s First District. It can be a magnet for women all over the country. It can dramatically change the landscape of opportunity for women in the most important technology fields of the future, those in the cutting-edge technologies of Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Automation, Robotics, and Space.
How do we start? With these simple steps:
- Challenge the local technology community through organizations like the Technology Association of Oregon (TAO) to establish a working committee to be led by our most prominent women technology leaders in Oregon.
- Urge this committee to set up a collaborative effort with the leading national organizations focused on women in technology such as the Anita Borg Institute to determine the scope of the new institution and identify a target list of donors.
- Challenge our next Governor, whoever that will be, to identify a local lead to work across government boundaries at the city, county, and state level to expedite the identification and acquisition of a suitable location in the Oregon First District.
If you elect me as your representative, I will work at the Federal level to drive support for this new institution and I will help raise funds and attract talent.
If we work together, we can create something new – a new STEM university for women – and we can create new opportunities, new jobs, and new growth for all Oregonians well into the 21st Century.
Like this idea? Show your support for a future All Women STEM/MARS University in Oregon: