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We Won’t Win the CHIPS Race if Women and People of Color Stay on the Sidelines

By Barnard College President and Dartmouth College President-elect Sian Beilock, Brown University President Christina Paxson, and AAAS Board of Directors Chair and Olin College of Engineering President Gilda A. Barabino:

Women have a long history of rising in times of crisis. Take the Rosie the Riveter campaign, which recruited millions of women to fill critical vacant jobs during World War II while men fought overseas. At its peak, 18 million women answered the call to join the workforce, and thanks to their participation the US war effort and economy stayed afloat.

Today, we find ourselves at a similar juncture, except this time we need engineers, not riveters. Following the passage of the CHIPS and Science Act last summer, unprecedented levels of funding are now available to grow the domestic semiconductor industry and enable the United States to compete in the global tech race — something we cannot do without also expanding our semiconductor workforce, where women currently hold just three in 10 computer and electronic manufacturing jobs. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo has pointed out that the country will suffer a shortfall of 90,000 skilled semiconductor workers by 2030 if we don’t act now. Leaving talent on the table is not an option.

To scale our engineering workforce and take full advantage of once-in-a-generation legislation, we must attract more women and people of color to semiconductor-related sectors. Higher education can help.

Our memory of Rosie the Riveter tends to forget that child care was central to making it possible for women to work — and it’s as critical today as it was in the 1940s. It’s no secret that women in the US do the majority of child care and domestic work, even when they earn the same salaries as their partners. The cognitive labor this dynamic creates takes a toll on women’s mental health and is already driving women out of the workforce at a time when we need them to participate. The CHIPS provision that requires companies receiving subsidies to provide affordable child care is one avenue to making it possible for caregivers to return to the workforce — but alone it’s not enough to generate the workforce growth CHIPS needs to succeed.

Read the rest of the article on CNN.