Patent office chief touts STEM careers at Girls Who Code summer graduation

More than half of girls are not considering STEM-related careers, said USPTO Director Michelle Lee.

The first female chief of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office encouraged girls participating in a summertime coding course to consider careers in math and science.

Speaking during the graduation of the Girls Who Code summer immersion program, agency Director Michelle Lee said it was critical for more women to join the technology workforce. While more than half of the economic growth over the last 60 years resulted from technological innovation, 57 percent of girls are not considering careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, known as STEM, she said.

“Without more women in STEM are we not, in effect, participating in the global economy with one hand tied behind our back?” she said, according to her prepared remarks. “So clearly, getting more young women like you interested in STEM fields is vital to our economy.”

Lee talked about her own experience studying electrical engineering and computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she said she was one of only a few women in her courses. She also highlighted the career of Edith Clarke, the country’s first professionally employed female electrical engineer who Lee inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame earlier this year.


The nonprofit Girls Who Code, which works to encourage young women to acquire computing skills, offered a seven-week summer immersion program at Georgetown University. It was the first such program that the group has held in D.C. At the event, high school juniors and seniors pitched ideas for new apps and Web designs, which they developed over the course of the program.

The graduation was split into two days. Stephanie C. Hill, vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training’s Ship & Aviation Systems business, spoke to graduates on Thursday. FedScoop recognized Hill and Lee as D.C.’s Top 50 Women in Tech this spring.

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