women scientists

Women in Science: Innovative Girl Power Impacts U.S. Workforce – You Can Too!

By Barbara Bennett

For Women’s History Month, I’d like to celebrate the importance of women in the work force.  In 2009, women accounted for 51 percent of all people employed in management, professional, and related occupations.  In 2007, there were 7.8 million women-owned businesses with receipts totaling $1.2 trillion. Over 140,000 of those businesses had revenues of $1 million or more and over 7,600 had 100 or more employees.  Talk about Girl Power!

We still have progress to make.  Only 3 percent of the 2010 Fortune 500 companies have women CEOs and women make up only 16 percent of the current 112th U.S. Congress.  Yet I think it’s important for us to remember that our career is as much a journey as it is a destination.

During my years in private industry, I didn’t anticipate a future career at EPA.  I realize, however, that the intersection of environmental research, green infrastructure and private markets for technological innovation are all initiatives that draw strength from both private and public sectors; neither one should be doing it alone when leveraging each other’s strengths works to the benefit of all. I am proud to be here as EPA’s Chief Financial Officer and I have found many opportunities speak to private industry about “green” investment.

No matter what career path you have chosen or are considering, I encourage you to bridge the gaps, connect the dots, and reach out to your peers in old or new career paths in search of new knowledge, or existing knowledge that can be applied in new ways.  Go ahead, take a chance, try a new idea….women scientists, and women in all fields, are in such a great position today to pursue new innovations for the benefit of society and the economy.

About the author: Barbara Bennett is the Chief Financial Officer for EPA. Prior to joining the Agency, she served as Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Discovery Communications, Inc.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.

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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Women in Science: EPA Reaching Out To Empower Women Around The World

By Michelle DePass

I am not a scientist, but in the world of environmental policy, science is a part of our everyday discussions and decisions. So I’m happy to help carry the message about the importance of promoting science and technology as the key to moving forward an agenda as large as protecting human health and the environment, meeting the needs of growing and rapidly urbanizing populations and increasing employment. We know that as we look to use science and technology to drive economic development and resolve health and environmental challenges, we must also ensure that our approach supports our goals for women’s equality.

Two weeks ago, I was thrilled to join Administrator Jackson, leading women scientists in Ethiopia and students pursuing science degrees at the Addis Ababa University to highlight the achievements of women scientists and the role science policy can play in helping solve the most challenging environmental and public health issues of our time.

DePasse2At the same time Administrator Jackson and I were having a conversation with future women leaders in Ethiopia, our colleagues from across the world came together to discuss the importance of promoting women in science and celebrate the launch of the new United Nations agency called ‘UN Women’. The establishment of UN Women reflects a shared global concern with the slow pace of change. We all know that it is no longer acceptable to live in a world where girls do not have equal access to education, where women’s employment opportunities are limited and where the threat of gender-based violence is a daily reality — at home, at school and at work.

To continue this global conversation on the role of women in science, on March 8, International Women’s Day, Administrator Jackson joined two leading women scientists from Indonesia for a live web chat with participants from Jakarta and the U.S. It was inspiring to hear how women in science around the world face similar challenges, but also share the same optimism for the future.

Together with colleagues from across the U.S. government and around the world, we at EPA will work to highlight the efforts of this generation of women leaders – and, I hope, by tirelessly promoting women’s access to education and science-based careers — inspire the next generation.

About the author: Michelle DePass is EPA’s Assistant Administrator for International and Tribal Affairs and continues to be a leading voice on expanding environmental justice in less advantaged communities here at home and in countries around the world.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.


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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Science Wednesday: A Family’s Support Goes Far for a Passionate Woman Scientist

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Sarah Blau

As part of Women’s History Month, I’ve been talking to EPA women scientists about their work. Recently, I spoke with Mary Kentula, a wetland ecologist from Corvallis, Oregon.

First, I curiously asked what she wanted to be when she was young.

“Well, I wanted to either be a hair dresser, work in a clothing department store, or be a secretary,” Kentula recalled, laughing.

To my astonishment, she explained that she grew up as a coal miner’s daughter in a small town in Pennsylvania. Most women in this town were stay-at-home mothers. Those who worked were hairdressers, store clerks, or secretaries.

Kentula’s interest in science originally came from her family. Her mother and maternal grandfather had a passion for the natural world, and Kentula shared this passion from an early age. In fact, when Kentula started biology in college, she realized she was already familiar with the topics because whenever something in nature had sparked her interest, she would ask her grandfather or look it up in his books.

When I switched the subject from her childhood to her current work at EPA, I could tell right away that Kentula is passionate about her work. While her job requires a fair amount of administrative tasks, Kentula loves hands-on science and often ventures to the field to experience first-hand what her fellow researchers are doing. She loves the cooperative efforts that EPA encourages and her ability to bring together multi-disciplinary teams with a variety of people.

With pride, Kentula explained how her wetlands research has helped inform national policy. Also, in 2007 she received an award from the Society of Wetland Scientists.

Now, as EPA prepares for a massive wetlands survey to be completed in 2011, Kentula can see that there is growing expertise across the nation regarding wetlands monitoring and assessment. She feels that her research has helped to encourage this movement.

Kentula continues to gain support from her family. Often when she works, she thinks to herself, “What would my parents think about this? Would they think it’s important?” She often uses her parents as a yardstick to measure the importance of her research and to bring her encouragement in her daily work.

It is clear from the tone of her voice and the excitement I hear when she speaks of wetlands research that Kentula has grown beyond her early notions of what careers were open to her and is now doing what she loves.

About the author: Writer Sarah Blau is a student services contractor working with EPA’s science communication team.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.

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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Women In Science: Administrator Lisa P. Jackson

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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.