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Leveling the Playing Field for Women: Work at the Energy Department

August 15, 2012 - 1:40pm


Karl Fraiser, a member of the Savannah River Special Emphasis Planning Committee, meets with Dot Harris at the site’s Women’s Equality Day Celebration. | Photo by Rob Davis, Savannah River Site.

Karl Fraiser, a member of the Savannah River Special Emphasis Planning Committee, meets with Dot Harris at the site’s Women’s Equality Day Celebration. | Photo by Rob Davis, Savannah River Site.

Editor's Note: This was originally posted on Politic365.

Advancing women’s equality is not just the right thing to do, it’s a smart thing to do. There’s constantly growing evidence that backs up the benefits of women’s equality. When women of all different ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic backgrounds are at the table as small business owners, energy entrepreneurs, policy makers, and in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) careers, the country benefits from their insight, knowledge, and talents.

Last week, I spoke at the Savannah River Site’s celebration for Women’s Equality Day, organized by the Savannah River Site Special Emphasis Program Committee. We commemorated the anniversary of the 19th Amendment, ratified on August 18, 1920. The 19th Amendment expanded the right to vote to nearly half of America’s citizens – women. Women had to fight for this equality, and we are still fighting for equality today in our schools, our jobs, and for economic opportunities.

While we’ve made significant progress as a country over the past decade to expand opportunities for women and girls, our work is not yet done. Women earn less than men, even as women outpace men in receiving college and graduate degrees. Unfortunately, when we look at disparities that exist among minority women, the gap is even more pronounced. For example, Black and Hispanic women reported lower weekly and annual earnings than all other groups in 2010. We cannot stay idle in the face of this inequality.

The Department of Energy (DOE) has a big stake in the game of developing talented women from all different ethnic and racial backgrounds in STEM fields. Women will play a critical role in advancing the technologies and innovations that are at the heart of America’s efforts to win the global clean energy race. To achieve our mission as a Department and as a nation, we need everyone at the table to help us meet our challenges head on.

Secretary Chu has put a diverse group of women in high-level, senior leadership positions throughout the Department. I’m joined by Tracy Mustin, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Environmental Management; Karina Edmonds, Director of our Technology Transfer program; Neile Miller, the Principal Deputy Administrator at the National Nuclear Security Administration; Pat Hoffman, the Director of the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability; Kathleen Hogan, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy; Cheryl Martin, the Commercialization Director at ARPA-E; Tracey LeBeau, the Director of the Office of Indian Energy; Pat Worthington, Director of the Office of Health Safety and Security; Sarah Bonilla, the Acting Chief Human Capital Officer, and many more.

These senior leaders, along with the many talented women at the DOE are working every day to lead the Department’s critical missions, serving our country, acting as models for the next generation of women leaders, and paving the way for increased women’s engagement in the Department’s programs. Through initiatives including expanding contracting with women-owned small businesses, our STEM mentorship program, Title IX compliance reviews, our Clean Energy Education & Empowerment (C3E) program, and other initiatives, we are working every day at the Department to increase women’s equality in the short and long-term.

As the nation celebrates Women’s Equality Day and the anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States this month, let us recommit ourselves to continuing the struggle for full equality. It is a fight for our grandmothers, our mothers, our daughters, and ourselves.