Congresswoman Barbara Comstock’s Act fails to inspire a key Congressional House Committee: the one on “Science.”
Meet Dr. Ellen Stofan, Former NASA Chief Scientist, and the sole woman invited to testify at the House Science Committee’s Congressional hearing on the future of space exploration, titled “NASA: Past, Present and Future.”
The hearing, held ten days ago, was promoted on Twitter by the House Committee with a succession of ten tweets. Prominently featured in these tweets, which included quotes and a link to the hearing footage, were three of the witnesses who offered testimony: (former astronaut/Senator Harrison Schmitt, former astronaut Lt. Gen. Thomas Stafford) and former flight director Tom Young, and, of course, Committee Chairman, Rep. Lamar Smith (TX-21).
It fell to Dr. Stofan to point out the glaringly obvious problem: None of the ten tweets from the House Science Committee mentioned her name in any way, and she was left out entirely of the photo with the three other witnesses, in which the Committee thanked them for their testimony.
She was quoted in The Atlantic as saying, “I understand that it’s probably mostly because they are the Republican witnesses. I was invited by the minority party, the Democrats. But the optics of being the only woman…,” she trailed off, with a rueful laugh. “You know, I understand, that’s the way the system works. I hope we’re turning away from that system.”
To make matters worse, on February 15th, the House Science Committee tweeted a shout out to House Sub-committee on Science, Space & Technology member Rep. Barbara Comstock and her INSPIRE Women ACT, which, purportedly, “will inspire women to enter aerospace field & STEM through mentorship & outreach.” The non-ironic tweets that omitted Dr. Stofan came just one day later.
Several people had the temerity to point out this travesty of an oversight to Rep. Comstock. Unfortunately, a thorough look through her tweets has failed to turn up any response or statement from the Congresswoman, though she did take the time to Re-tweet another shout-out of her Act from the @HouseGOP twitter account:
Though The Atlantic reported on their efforts to reach out to the House Committee and gain clarity into this omission, “The person who answered the phone Friday paused and said, “that’s a good question,” before referring me to the communications staff. [As of yesterday], I had not heard back,” none has been received. A scan of the House Committee’s twitter account reveals that no additional messages on the subject have been released. There is still no mention of Dr. Stofan, and there is no picture of her posted with the other witnesses.
The next time you and your “small group” of four other constituents go visit Congresswoman Comstock to talk about issues, she will undoubtedly bring up her pet project, The INSPIRE Women Act, and she will most certainly use this to tout her unrelenting support for women in STEM. For example, in her most recent tele-Town Hall, she said, “My INSPIRE Act is bipartisan – to inspire women to go into STEM. It is something I worked on with a Democrat colleague, and I co-sponsored her bill as well. We were both inspired by the movie, “Hidden Figures.” When she brings this up, won’t you please be prepared to do the rest of us constituents in VA-10 a solid favor, and follow up with a question: “Why didn’t you release a statement of support or thanks of “Hidden Figure,” Dr. Ellen Stofan, the lone woman scientist sitting on a panel otherwise populated exclusively by men?”