Quick link: great read on women in science

3 Oct

Regular post is coming tomorrow (it’s peach shortcake), but a quick note before I head off to teach.  I just read and really, really enjoyed this article, and only partially because I know a few of the people interviewed in it (and it is a spot-on portrayal of those two professors).  It’s a long but worthwhile read.  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/06/magazine/why-are-there-still-so-few-women-in-science.html?_r=0.

My advisor actually asked me a similar question a few weeks ago: why are there so few women in our graduate program?  We’ve got about 2-3 a year for 5-6 years, with each cohort having somewhere around 20 students.  So we’re at, what, 10-15%?  When I was at UCSB, we were around 20%.  At certain schools they have 50% (by which I mean North Carolina State University, last time I checked which was a few years ago).  What should we aim for?  I mean, is % of graduate students even a good metric (probably not because lots of people drop out)?

My first approach to his question was to ask the women in our program why they came- everyone said something about how people were friendly, and when I pushed further, every woman had talked to an older woman in the program.  Really I need to ask the people who were accepted and didn’t come why they didn’t, but that’s not possible.  I should also ask the men why they came and compare.  I’m not a sociologist, I’ve said before, but I am a feminist and I am interested in this stuff.

OK I really have to head to class (the students have a calculus exam tomorrow) but here’s a last note on this.  A comment on this piece, I quote:

Why do fewer men than women graduate from high school?

Why are many fewer men than women hired as school teachers?

Why do significantly fewer men than women receive college degrees?

Why are these data not evidence of gender bias against men?

Why are female achievement gaps systematically portrayed as gender bias against women, while male achievement gaps are systematically portrayed as innate male fecklessness?

Why are astronomically fewer articles published by the Times about these issues?

I’ll never claim to have answers for anything, just my thoughts, and stuff for you to think about.  Besides a substitute teacher in 5th grade, I had never been taught math by a woman until I finished undergraduate.


6 Responses to “Quick link: great read on women in science”

  1. Margaret October 3, 2013 at 11:41 am #

    Between the 6th and 12th grade I was taught by females for 5 years and males for 2 years. When I was deciding on colleges and majors it was one particular female math teacher that encouraged me to pursue STEM.

  2. Evelyn Lamb (@evelynjlamb) October 3, 2013 at 6:03 pm #

    Recently I realized that my math teachers were entirely female until 10th grade and entirely male after that. (I think I only had two or three male teachers in any subjects before I got to college.) I had no female math professors in college or grad school. There were female professors at my school, I just happened not to have classes with them.

    • yenergy October 7, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

      Marg, I’m glad that you were encouraged to do science yay! Did you have females in undergraduate? Evelyn, thanks for commenting. It does seem more likely to see male teachers in secondary math/science than primary anything. My senior year our school hired a female postdoc, but I didn’t take the class with her- that was my only chance.

      Comments from facebook/friends on this:
      I’ve had a total of 3 female math/stat profs ever. 1 in high school (vector calc @ communit college), 1 in an undergrad stat class and another in grad school. I don’t think I had a female math/stat TA until grad school. I knew it was bad, I didn’t realize how bad.
      October 3 at 11:34am

      Weirdly for me, until college (when all four of my math/science instructors were men), I had only had one male math teacher (5th grade) and only two male science teachers (earth science and physics b). I was never a huge science person, except for physics, but I was good at it. In college I liked math till I hit a wall with multivariable, and the physics 180 professor my semester was just not good at explaining things, so while I still did well it wasn’t thanks to him. I wonder if I would’ve stuck with both that long if I hadn’t had female teachers…
      October 3 at 11:36am

      After reading it, I am reminded of how lucky I am to come from where I did. I never saw any gender discrimination, ever. I also came from a really small town and my mom was a kindergarten teacher.
      my mom noticed a scholastic aptitude in me very early and knew what to do to exploit it[…]
      gender never really came up. it was just, Oh, the smart kid.
      that said…..I’m still not in academia.
      Thursday, October 3, 2013 10:39 AM (edited from chat)


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