Ivanka Trump, DeVos urge female students to pursue STEM careers

Ivanka Trump, DeVos urge female students to pursue STEM careers
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First daughter Ivanka Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos teamed up to urge young girls to explore careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) during a trip to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum on Tuesday.

Trump told a group of middle school students that just 24 percent of STEM professionals are women, though women make up nearly half of the work force in America, The Associated Press reported.

She urged the girls on the trip to "beat those statistics and advance the role of women in STEM fields,” according to Education Week.

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President Trump’s eldest daughter also encouraged the male students on the trip to "empower your female classmates and support them along the way."

"The playing field will only be leveled if we can all work together to eliminate these longstanding barriers,” she said.

A female astronaut spoke with the group, mentioning the president’s recent bill granting $19.5 billion to NASA aimed at exploration on Mars.

"I know there's probably someone in this audience who's going to be part of that important mission," DeVos said.

The Tuesday visit comes as the Trump administration’s budget proposal also calls for cuts to NASA’s education programs and four earth science missions. 

The president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, criticized DeVos and Trump’s effort in a statement, accusing them of "feigning an interest in STEM careers with a photo op at the National Air and Space Museum while eliminating all funding for NASA's education programs."

"If this administration was genuinely interested in promoting STEM programs, it would walk the walk, not just talk the talk."