Today we’re talking to the Honorable La Doris “Dot” Harris, the Director of the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), about the Department’s Women @ Energy initiative. In her role, she ensures that minorities and historically underrepresented communities are afforded opportunities to actively participate in the Department’s programs. The Women @ Energy initiative aims to profile female scientists across the department and has highlighted 300 women to date.
How did the Women @ Energy initiative get started?
Shortly after joining the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and visiting a number of our National Laboratories, I was overwhelmed by the vast number of highly talented and empowering women scientists making a difference. Serving as the department’s senior official for the White House Council for Women and Girls, I was inspired to showcase these STEM leaders to the nation to help encourage our youth to pursue STEM. I learned from my team that NASA had an existing initiative that we could benchmark, the Women@NASA series. Thus, the Women @ Energy series was launched with the plan of featuring at least 50 profiles on our website. After remarkable engagement and support, we have more than 300 profiles of women in STEM, spurring growing numbers and interest.
What impact have you seen because of Women @ Energy?
This initiative has fueled our outreach to communities surrounding our 17 National Labs and field sites. It has led to the launch of another initiative that I wish to leave as a key legacy during the Obama Administration, the Women in Energy ebook and interactive website targeted for middle school students. We are inspired by our own Women @ Energy and want to share their stories with students across the nation and the globe. We recognize the incredible power of a story, it transcends all other forms of learning and communication. We want to connect our youth to the stories of the scientists and engineers who work tirelessly to make our world a safer and better place to live. We want our students to hear the stories of those that precede them so they can be introduced to the limitless possibilities of science and engineering.
Tell us about the classroom lessons you are developing to engage girls in STEM – what will those look like and what do you hope that they accomplish?
It is imperative to our nation’s economic vitality and security to expose, engage, and inspire all young people to understand the role STEM plays in their future and the future of us all. As our world becomes more technologically advanced, students of all backgrounds must employ a STEM understanding of our world. With the onus upon us, we are developing lessons and activities with a focus on energy to be used in both formal and informal settings. These activities will enable all students to interact with the world around them, learn more about all different forms of energy and learn about cutting-edge research that is happening in our National Laboratories. And of course they will also learn about the researchers who collaboratively produce the amazing feats at our Labs.
We want students to understand more about our story — the Department of Energy — and how their lives intersect with the work that we accomplish on a daily basis. In order to ensure that we reach all populations, we will use a transmedia approach, enabling print and media to help us bring to light all of the talent entreasured in our students.