The Amelia Earhart Fellowship Flies On

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that women are underrepresented in STEM jobs. Despite accounting for 47 percent of the total U.S. workforce, women hold less than one in four aerospace jobs. Zonta International, a global service organization dedicated to promoting women's rights, seeks to empower women to pursue STEM careers with its annual Amelia Earhart Fellowship program.

The fellowship has grown from a $500 loan program in 1938 to $10,000 grants awarded annually to 35 women pursuing Ph.D./doctoral degrees in aerospace-related sciences or engineering. This marks the first year that previous fellows are barred from applying for a renewed grant. Since the fellowship began, Zonta has given over $9 million to 1,044 fellows from 70 countries. The money must go toward tuition, books, or living expenses for a doctoral program.

So what’s the thought process behind encouraging women to pursue degrees in aerospace fields? Zonta, founded in 1919, says the fellowship's focus is on "eliminating the gender bias that women face in pursuing doctoral degrees in the sciences and engineering." That's aligned with the organization's mission to empower women, and certainly in the spirit of the fellowship's pioneering aviatrix namesake. The program is open to women of any nationality in an accredited Ph.D./doctoral aerospace-related program, and applicants must show a superior academic record. The deadline to apply is November 2016.

We wrote last year about the Henry Luce Foundation’s work to promote women in STEM fields by supporting female scientists, but women aren't the only demographic conspicuously missing from STEM careers. Just two weeks ago we wrote about Aerospace giant Northrop Grumman's efforts to increase diversity in its workforce with a $2 million grant to the National Society of Black Engineers. We were also excited to see Apple commit $50 million to various nonprofits seeking to attract more women and minorities into the tech world. This trend of companies and foundations trying to improve diversity among the ranks of STEM careers is one we’re happy to keep tracking.