Shirley Malcom - American Association for the Advancement of Science
Director of Education and Human Resources
At the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Shirley Malcom develops programs to improve the quality and increase access to education and careers in STEM. Dr. Malcom holds a PhD in ecology from Penn State. During the Clinton Administration she served on the National Science Board and President’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology. Dr. Malcom is a trustee of Caltech and a Regent of Morgan State University. In 2003 she received the Public Welfare Medal of the National Academy of Sciences.
Why do you believe STEM Education and Workforce are important to our Nation?
Every aspect of our personal and public lives depends on technology, knowledge of STEM and/or the products of knowledge and invention of scientists and engineers. From the availability of quality food and safe drinking water, to transportation, communications, health care, national security and the economy, STEM is the engine that makes it all go. We also have challenges that must be addressed that will also depend on STEM: meeting the global energy needs and food security requirements of the planet without doing irreparable harm to the environment; supporting wellbeing of populations across the globe to promote peace and security, including within our nation.
What can we do to assure more women leaders in STEM?
We start early with young women, and give them opportunities to lead. We support them with encouragement and mentoring. It is also important to help mid-career women find and use their voices and talents. In many cases they have valuable things to offer, but they have not been asked or have been expected to defer to others. We ask them and include them. And we support senior women who are already there. We need to think of it as a life cycle issue; at every stage people need support—to imagine themselves as leaders, to find themselves as leaders and to be supported as leaders.
What about STEM gives you passion?
There is always something new and exciting, something to look forward to, something to discover about ourselves and our world. And even when experiments don’t work, you still learn from them. What more could you ask for!
Of what one initiative are you most proud?
I am proud of our efforts to share science with all kinds of people. We have had any number of variants of programs of outreach, where we partner with a community group or women’s organization, build capacity within the organization to run their own programs, nurture and support them and then send them on their way, stronger and enabled to do STEM programming themselves. That kind of capacity building is very satisfying.
How is your organization innovating to promote STEM?
We discovered a long time ago that we will never have a staff large enough to reach all of the people we want to/need to reach. So we have been looking at other ways to extend our reach. We work with scientist-engineers who volunteer in schools and after school settings; we work with groups who work with people, perhaps around other issues, and help them see the STEM connections to their issues; and we are moving much more into using technology, including games, to teach more about STEM. This way we can bring STEM to people more on their own terms… meeting them where they live and work.