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Women In Science: Administrator Lisa P. Jackson

2011 March 1

By Administrator Lisa P. Jackson

March 1 is the first day of Women’s History Month, and EPA is celebrating by sharing the stories and perspectives of many talented women within our ranks. Over the next 30 days, this page will feature blogs by women scientists, engineers, and leaders who play an important role in helping EPA protect the health of the American people.

There is no doubt that environmental protection would not be where it is today without the extraordinary, groundbreaking work of amazing women. In the 1930s, a woman named Rosalie Edge showed people the importance of preservation and environmental protection. Edge was a pioneer who made it possible for others like Sylvia Earle, Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Jane Goodall to emerge as leading advocates for protecting health and the environment. Rachel Carson – a scientist – authored the book Silent Spring that changed environmentalism forever. It is no coincidence that her book was published in the early 1960s, and by 1970 we had a federal Environmental Protection Agency.

photo of EPA Administrator Jackson touring EPA's Cincinnati lab.

Administrator Lisa P. Jackson at EPA's environmental research center in Cincinnati.

These women were an inspiration to today’s generation of women scientists – including myself. I majored in chemical engineering at Tulane University in my hometown of New Orleans, and received a master’s degree in Engineering at Princeton University before joining EPA as a staff level in 1987. It was a time when very few women were studying and working in scientific and engineering fields. When I graduated from Princeton, I was one of only two women in my class. I felt a call to service and to issues of health, and wanted to use my technical degree to make a difference in the world around me. I originally wanted to become a doctor to help people when they fell sick. While studying chemical engineering, I realized that I could use my scientific training to clean up or prevent pollution in our communities, helping people by ensuring they didn’t get sick in the first place.

Over time I witnessed the changes that took place and the doors that opened – not just to me but to all women. According to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, around 154,000 women were pursuing masters degrees in science and engineering when I was in school. By 2003, that number jumped to around 270,000. Fifty years ago, women earned less than 10 percent of the science and engineering doctorates awarded in the United States. By 2006, that number climbed to 40 percent.

Scientific and technical advances are the foundations of our progress and prosperity. As the head of the government agency responsible for protecting human health and the environment, I’ve made clear that every decision we make on environmental issues must be guided by the best science possible.

The extraordinary women who work as researchers, technical experts, engineers, leaders and scientists at EPA give us the information we need to build the best health and environmental protections for the American people. I am proud to call them my colleagues, and I look forward to reading their contributions as we mark Women’s History Month with our series on women scientists at EPA.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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11 Responses leave one →
  1. armansyahardanis permalink
    March 1, 2011

    Heavy To Be A Women……

    Dear Administrator Lisa P. Jackson,
    Fundamentally, Women are Subject, not object that most of the people in the world thought, seen, done or touched. From the daughter into the ladies, they always nervous, scare, careful and fully of responsibility with their own: Herself, family and environment. Time by time, step by step, the women have discovered their position: “Savior and Leader” of the world. Heavy to be a women……

  2. Kay permalink
    March 1, 2011

    In 1964 I wanted to enter my school’s Science Fair. I was told “No. Science is for boys.” I refused to believe them. I was branded a trouble maker for elbowing my way into science. I am not published or famous but with my two undergraduate science degrees and a masters in safety engineering I have quietly made inroads to the ‘Boys Only’ rule. A single mother of a daughter and a son I have tried to instill in them that your brain and determination will get you where you want to go, not your gender. The road is still harder for women to follow, more hills, poorer paving but much better than the cow path of the 1960’s. I love working in the hazardous & toxic waste arena. I like being in the People & Environment Protection Racket.

  3. Brandi Richard permalink
    March 1, 2011

    Thank you for sharing your story Administrator Jackson. It is encouraging to see the strides of women in the science and technology fields. I’ll be sharing this with my daughter.

  4. Maria L. Nelson permalink
    March 1, 2011

    I am very proud that you have accomplished such great strives. I too has always been interested in science, since the days of black and white television. Every Sunday here in New Orleans the T.V.
    station showed a film about the U.F.O. which turned out to be weather balloons or a film about Superman, his planet and his abliity to fly because of the criptonite he drunk. As I have attended the February, 29, 2011 Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force Listening Session to get involve with the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast hoping that the knowledge that I receive from the Restoration Process could further my education here at Tulane University. I hope to use this valueable reserach to strength my Tulane University PH.D. goals and that of building Haiti.

  5. Donna permalink
    March 1, 2011

    It is very exciting to hear March is Women in Science Month. My daughter, now 16 and in the 11th grade, is planning on majoring in Science when she goes to college. I will pass this information onto her Guidance Counselor if she would like to share with other girls looking at this field.

  6. go GIRL global permalink
    March 1, 2011

    Lisa P. Jackson you are an EPIC woman scientist, inspiring girls with your leadership everyday

  7. Christine permalink
    March 2, 2011

    Improving our environment and taking action for all of our communities requires bold leadership. I am empowered by Administrator Jackson, and many other women at the Agency, who are tackling issues like climate change, environmental justice, and resource scarcity.

    This is an excellent Greenversations post and monthly theme in honor of Women’s History Month–

  8. Ronke L permalink
    March 4, 2011

    Nice post.

    I grew up in Africa; studied Chemical Engineering in Europe and came to the U.S. I was very puzzled to find that girls in science and engineering had such a tough road here. Quite different from my experience growing up in Africa in which girls in science were celebrated, encouraged and generally championed. There weren’t many of us, but being interested in science and engineering wasn’t something we were shy about expressing.

    I’m glad there is Women’s History Month to celebrate women’s achievments including those in science and engineering.

  9. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    March 6, 2011

    Science really is for everyone and really benefits all people. It is especially important in the areas of environmental protection, transportation, and medicine. That science should have no walls keeping people out is emphasized by a by school to college transition program in Minnesota for disabled high school girls that seeks to get the interested in careers in science and engineering. Best wishes, MichaelE. Bailey.

  10. max mara permalink
    March 30, 2011

    nice one for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic vcd8jfuy. If possible, as you gain expertise, would you mind updating your website with more information? as it is extremely helpful for me.

  11. Lucy permalink
    July 28, 2011

    science should have no walls keeping people out is emphasized by a by school to college transition program in Minnesota for disabled high school girls that seeks to get the interested in careers in science and engineering.
    best wishes, Lucy,

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