Cantwell to Young Women Pursuing Leadership Roles: “Our Nation Needs You … Don’t Hesitate to Think That You Can Lead"

Sen. Cantwell joins Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, Astronaut Anne McClain on panel about women in leadership

SPOKANE, WA – On Monday, November 21, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, Chair of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, joined a prestigious panel of Washington state women for a discussion of women in leadership at a ceremony celebrating the Spokane Spokesman-Review’s 2022 Women of the Year.

Sen. Cantwell called on the young women in the audience to “step out, step up, and solve a problem.”

“I’m asking all of you young women who are here tonight: Our nation needs you. You have something to offer … seize the day. … Don’t hesitate to think that you can lead, that you have good ideas, and that you can help our society move forward in the future. We’re counting on you.”

Sen. Cantwell, the first woman to chair the Commerce Committee, was joined by Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-WA), the first woman to hold a leadership role on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and by Spokane-born Astronaut Anne McClain, who flew to the International Space Station in 2018 and is under consideration for the Artemis crewed mission to the Moon.

Sen. Cantwell and McClain spoke about the importance of bringing more women into the sciences and the workforce.

 “We can’t have 50% of society sitting it out,” said Sen. Cantwell. “We’re just not going to be competitive as a nation if we don’t have women join the effort.”

“Diversity is naturally occurring,” said Astronaut McClain. “So if you have a lack of diversity, it’s because there’s a barrier somewhere. We think about this a lot in astronaut selection. If we cast a net and we only get one type of person applying then there’s a problem with our net, there’s a problem with our selection. There’s a barrier somewhere that we’re not seeing.”

Later in the event, McClain spoke about her opportunities to become an astronaut and her commitment to increasing opportunity for the next generation.

“I did have the opportunity to walk through these doors but those doors were opened by other women that did not accept the status quo,” said McClain. “All of us have a responsibility to open doors to those underprivileged communities – LGBT, transgender rights – we have to open the doors for other people.”

Although the number of women in STEM has been increasing, studies show that a gender gap persists – as of 2019, 34 percent of the STEM workforce was women. However, research shows that interacting with women scientists and having female role models helps women to choose STEM careers and make them more likely to stay in STEM. Beginning in 2001, the University of Washington launched a program using National Science Foundation (NSF) funds to more than double the number of female faculty in its College of Engineering; today, UW has the highest representation of women in faculty in the top 50 engineering colleges.

Sen. Cantwell was a chief architect and lead negotiator of the CHIPS & Science Act, which was signed into law earlier this year. The two committees that spearheaded the CHIPS & Science Act – the Senate Commerce committee led by Sen. Cantwell and the House Science Committee led by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson – were led by women.

The new law triples funding for NSF STEM programs over five years, including new funds for up to 40,000 new scholarships, fellowships, and traineeships, with direction to increase participation of women and other groups underrepresented in STEM fields. The CHIPS & Science Act also directs the NSF to allocate awards to boost the number of women and minorities in STEM fields through mentoring programs, research experiences, and outreach. The law additionally fully authorized NASA’s Artemis mission for the first time and expressed Congress’ intent that the mission should include women and minorities.

“I think that the CHIPS & Science bill is the story about the next phase of America and how we need more women in science,” Sen. Cantwell said during the panel. “Here we are today with shortages across every sector of the sciences. We need more women.”

Each year, The Spokesman-Review honors 10 women from across the Inland Northwest who have made remarkable contributions in business, politics, art, social services, philanthropy or activism. The Nov. 21 ceremony honored the 2020, 2021 and 2022 Women of the Year.

A video of the full panel is available HERE, and photos of Sen. Cantwell at the event are available HERE. (Photos courtesy of Northwest Passage/Spokesman-Review). A transcript of Sen. Cantwell’s remarks can be read HERE.