We applaud the passage of the CHIPS and Science Act, which will strengthen the nation’s economic competitiveness and security. We are writing as women university presidents and engineering deans to express our commitment to help significantly grow the engineering workforce, which is essential to achieve the goals of CHIPS.
A simple truth is that expanding this workforce will be impossible without bringing in more women and people of color.
According to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, the nation must triple the number of graduates who are semiconductor industry-ready. Currently, women represent between 10 and 25% of the semiconductor industry, and historically underrepresented groups make up only 20%. The success of CHIPS hinges on tapping the full strength of the nation’s talent, by attracting more women and historically marginalized groups to the industry.
We are forming a coalition of higher-education institutions that are committed to expanding and diversifying the semiconductor workforce. It is fitting that this coalition is beginning as six universities in the AAU (America’s leading research universities) that have both women presidents and deans of engineering (as of July 2023), as well as the female Chair of the Board of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). We plan to expand this coalition to include many more institutions that share our commitment.
Far too many employers report a mismatch between what engineering students learn in school, and what graduates need on day one of the job. Building a more heterogeneous, job-ready labor force demands that higher education, private industry and the federal government coalesce and act at an unprecedented level and pace.
We know what works when it comes to growing groups of diverse industry-ready graduates, and we’re ready to act.
Here is what it will take:
The value of higher education in this equation goes beyond the immediate term. Having an adaptable workforce that can seamlessly transition as industry and technology rapidly shift is critical to the nation’s long-run global competitiveness. Engineering education that endows students with a wide array of knowledge and skills can help them more fluidly pivot into new roles as high-level employees.
We need funding and support from federal and state governments and employers to implement these strategies. To educate and graduate a single PhD in engineering today costs up to half a million dollars.
This is personal for us. We have often been the “first” women to occupy leadership roles, and frequently are still one of the few or only women in gatherings of industry leaders. We did not arrive at our positions on our own – it took mentorship, community, and, thankfully, amazing educations to help us get here. And we are proud of the strides our institutions have taken to diversify the student populations focused on STEM. Now, we want to work together to help expand (and change) the makeup of the entire semiconductor and engineering workforce — and with CHIPS, we have the potential infrastructure to get it done.
To quote Secretary Raimondo, “the stakes couldn’t be higher,” and we couldn’t agree more. If the CHIPS Act is the equivalent of landing on the moon, then this time, it cannot be walked by men alone.
Contact: Emma Ruben, [email protected]