Ivanka Trump, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos celebrate Women's History Month by encouraging girls in STEM

Ivanka Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos spoke at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Tuesday on the importance of women in science, technology, engineering and math fields.

The museum hosted the event in collaboration with the Department of Education and NASA to celebrate Women's History Month and offer encouragement to female students interested in STEM.

Students from schools in the District of Columbia, Virginia and Maryland were invited to talk with NASA astronaut Kay Hire and visit discovery stations --"Living and Working in Space," "Black Holes," and "Moon Rocks" -- that allowed students to learn about what an astronaut does while in orbit, the impact of black holes in our solar system and see rocks brought back from the moon. The students then listened to short speeches by the invited speakers before watching the acclaimed film "Hidden Figures."

Trump and DeVos were joined by the Smithsonian's John and Adriennes Mars Director Jack Dailey and student educator Rae Stewart, who related personal stories and encouraged young girls to explore careers in STEM.

SEE ALSO: Trump signs order sweeping away Obama-era policies

"Women's participation in STEM, where so many jobs of the future will come from, is critical in the fight for wage equality and for the empowerment of women in the economy," Trump told the students.

She also urged boys to "empower" and "support" their female classmates. "The playing field will only be leveled if we can all work together to eliminate these long-standing barriers," she said.

While President Donald Trump in February signed twobills encouraging women in STEM fields through NASA and the National Science Foundation, critics noted that he is eliminating funding for NASA's education programs in his 2018 proposed budget.

NASA's best photos of 2016

"Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Ivanka Trump are 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," American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said in a press release. "This takes chutzpah to a new level. If this administration was genuinely interested in promoting STEM programs, it would walk the walk, not just talk the talk. The next generation of astronauts, scientists, engineers and mathematicians need support, not budget cuts eliminating the very programs being promoted."

Copyright 2017 U.S. News & World Report