It’s clear that there aren’t enough people in politics that have a science background (see EPA leadership) or a teaching background. Perhaps we wouldn’t have people disputing climate change if there were more educated people in science leading this country.
What’s being done to get more scientists and engineers into US politics and how can we support those efforts? How many women with a science background are in politics? How are they being supported?
If you are a scientist, engineer or teacher, or know someone who is, urge them to become more involved in politics. They can either run for office (and these organizations will help them) or serve as advisors, speak up at town halls, or host events to inform the public.
A partner society is a national or international scientific or engineering association that sponsors one or more fellows under the umbrella of the AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowships. Societies are typically 501(c)(3) organizations with a majority of members at the doctoral levels who are professionally involved in research or education related to science and engineering. Partner societies conduct their own application and selection processes, and may offer different stipends and support.
Partnership is open to scientific or engineering societies. Partnership is not open to universities or university associations, academic institutions or consortia, trade associations, foundations, or commercial sponsors, or professional societies without a significant focus on science or engineering.
All partner societies agree to sponsor at least one congressional fellow; in addition, they may choose to sponsor an executive or judicial branch fellowship.
AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowships
Providing opportunities for outstanding scientists and engineers to learn first-hand about federal policymaking while using their knowledge and skills to address today’s most pressing societal challenges.
Established in 2015, it enables graduate students, post-docs, and faculty to explore intersections between science and politics in order to increase their understanding of how politics affects their disciplines and how they can effectively engage with political and policymaking leaders and institutions. The series highlights the need for improvements in communication between scientists and non-scientists and for expanding the pool of scientifically trained graduates interested in public service careers.
In 1972, Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which was sent to the states for ratification. By 1977, 35 of the necessary 38 states ratified the amendment, and it looked like it was only a matter of time until the amendment would be enshrined in the Constitution. And then came Phyllis Schlafly, a conservative, upper-middle class housewife who used fear to rally similar-minded conservatives against the ERA. Their reasons? Women could be drafted if an ERA passed; women would lose alimony in divorce cases, and possibly their children; and--oh the horror!--unisex bathrooms would be permitted and gays would be able to marry!
It was a perfect example of how conservatives insist on imposing their beliefs on everyone. And, their fear-based tactics worked. Not only did no more states ratify the ERA, four states rescinded their ratification (it is uncertain if this was legal), and the ERA was DOA. Until 2017 and 2018, when Nevada and Illinois, respectively, ratified the ERA.
We are now one state away from ratification (presuming the rescinded ratifications are not permitted, and that is a huge presumption. It would likely be challenged in the courts.).
But now, the question is: have women's rights come far enough that we don't need an Equal Rights Amendment? Many well-educated women are not even aware that we don't have an ERA, many states have passed their own ERAs, Congress has passed targeted laws that guarantee women's rights, some countries with the greatest gender equality do not have an ERA (think Iceland) and some that do have an ERA in their constitution are pathetically lacking in gender equality (think Japan).
On January 20th, in recognition of the International Women's Rights March, DAJ members and others met to discuss gender equality in the world at large, and specifically in Japan and the US. We discussed whether an ERA is really needed in modern times, and the kinds of actions that we can take to fight for either an ERA or individual rights. Some key points included:
1) Pro: Having an ERA in the Constitution serves as a framework and would override state laws that could be discriminatory.
2) Con: it would be difficult to generate interest in passage since most people think women have equal rights already.
3) Pro: Passage of an ERA could not be overridden by future congresses, but individual laws could be.
4) Con: Passage of an ERA would make people think everything is solved and stop fighting for legislation that targets specific needs of women and the LGBTQ community.
The group agreed that equity is just as important to fight for as equality, and while some were in favor of passage and others were ambivalent, no one was ultimately against passage.
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