Thanks, and welcome everyone.
It is an honor and a pleasure to meet with all of you today to talk about women in science, technology, engineering, and math, or “STEM,” for short.
As I argue again and again, the world needs more women in STEM – in the United States, in Indonesia, everywhere. That brain power, knowledge, and skill is needed to address the world’s most pressing problems.
Before we get into that, let tell you why I am in Jakarta.
In the bureau I lead at the U.S. Department of State, we work on a wide range of issues, from ocean and nature conservation to climate change, global health, space, and emerging technologies. Additionally, we support “science diplomacy” – which is about enabling international scientific collaboration for global benefit.
We also promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility across our work. This includes efforts to advance opportunities for women and girls in STEM fields and careers around the world.
Essentially, I came to Indonesia to learn more about what your country is doing to manage these pressing issues and to look for opportunities to work together.
I am meeting with scientists, NGOs and senior officials from your ministry of marine affairs and fisheries and the National Research and Innovation Agency. Tomorrow, I will speak at the Indonesia Net Zero Summit about climate change.
But more importantly, today, I have the pleasure to meet with you. Our topic of advancing gender equality and promoting girls and women in STEM is of great importance here in Indonesia, as well as the in United States, and for me personally.
In the same way that many people do not realize that the environment, climate, and science are part of diplomacy, some people still haven’t realized that we all benefit when girls, just like their brothers, are able to pursue education and eventually careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
The U.S. government takes gender issues seriously, and promoting gender equality in science is a U.S. foreign policy priority. We understand that promoting women in STEM will bolster technological growth, scientific innovation, and economic security.
Indonesia, the United States, and other partners have all endorsed APEC Women in STEM Principles and Actions.
These three main tenants are:
1. Women in STEM are critical to sustainable economic growth and robust science and technology;
2. Increased representation of Women in STEM matters; and
3. Overcoming social, cultural, and economic barriers women in STEM face is important.
In the United States and Indonesia, much progress has been made to promote women and girls in STEM fields and careers. Indonesia leads ASEAN in this area, with some STEM fields here near gender parity. Still, there is still more work to be done. It is important to remember that women throughout history have made enormous contributions to the advancement of science. It is just that the world could use more of them.
As you all know, often women were discouraged from going into STEM fields.
For example, years ago, a little girl in Chicago told her teacher she wanted to become a scientist. The teacher asked if she meant “nurse.”
“No, I mean a scientist!” that little girl replied. This is a true story, and luckily, that little girl stuck to her guns, and went on to get a degree in Chemical Engineering at Stanford, later became a doctor and medical researcher, and in 1992 became the first black woman to travel in space. Yes, she became a U.S. astronaut.
Her name is Mae Jemison, and she has inspired many young women, and men, to pursue their dreams.
Her advice to young people is straightforward: “Don’t let anyone rob you of your imagination, creativity, or curiosity. It’s your place in the world; it’s your life. Go and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live.”
I am talking about Mae Jemison today because she is a wonderful example for all of us.
There are wonderful role models all around us. Some are with us today, including our two accomplished panelists and our moderator. You will get a full introduction to them soon, but let me just say that they are Indonesian women who have distinguished themselves in STEM fields and have made real contributions in these areas.
Today’s event is an opportunity for me to learn more about efforts here in Indonesia to advance gender quality and promote women and girls in STEM and consider ways for our two countries to cooperate on this front. It is also an opportunity for me to encourage young women with an interest in science to persevere. The world needs you!
Remember – no field or profession should be out of reach for women – we cannot tackle global challenges by leaving half of our population behind. Increasing the participation of women and girls in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics is a win-win situation – it contributes to women’s empowerment and gender equality while also catalyzing economic growth and increasing productivity.
We have an excellent panel to discuss this topic, and I’m looking forward to hearing their perspectives on this important issue, and from hearing from the audience too, during the Q&A session.
Let me turn things back over to our moderator to get the panel discussion started.