Monday, May 14, 2012

Women in the Sciences

I went to a high school where the main focus of the education in the sciences was the main focus of the teaching there. Sure, they taught more than just math and science, but the main aspect was on sciences. When my class graduated last year, about half want to major in some sort of science in college, me being one of them. Of course, my class doesn't really reflect the general population of the country at all. In 2006, the OECD (Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development) found that 15% of students in the US major in some type of science in college. While I don't believe that everyone has to major in any sort of science in science, I believe that more people do need to major in it if we want to move forward as a society. Especially women.

An article published by the Times in 2010 looks at why women are still underrepresented in the field of science. The part that really surprised me was when the article mentioned that girls would under perform on a math test when it mentioned to them that they would do poorly. "Contrast sensitivity ability" as it was called, doesn't truly exist in the real world but does have real world consequences. Namely, it would get girls to do worse in the math and sciences compared to men when there was no real reason to other than a clear bias against them. As Alex mentioned in a earlier blog, Larry Summers was under fire for suggested that men do better  with jobs that require higher intelligence compared to women. It wasn't so much that he didn't have data to support him. It was more that his comment (and comments like his), could have a really negative effect in society.

 Have females only been kept down when it comes in math and science because men don't think that females are as smart as them? Not really. There are certainly other factors in play, like gender roles. Some women don't want to be scientists because they want to spend more time with their families, and that is totally fine. Others don't feel like being a scientist is totally right for them. And that is perfectly fine, too. However, what isn't fine is Harvard having its first tenured female in 375 years, even with the strides that women have in made in math and science. What isn't fine is girls feeling that having a career in the sciences is not for them when the only thing that is keeping them out is unintentional, yet harmful, discrimination against them.

Maybe I'm not seeing the whole picture here, but there is a problem that is very apparent. When women feel undervalued unnecessarily, it becomes society's problem. My sister said she wants to be a dentist when she grows up (12 right now). It wouldn't be fair for her to prove herself more in the scientific community just because she's a girl. No girl should, for that matter.

1 comment:

  1. I understand that your intention with this post is to take a stand for women and question why it is that there are not more successful women within the scientific world, and I completely agree. However, even some of your own comments contradict your very point about the discrimination against women which discourages them from pursuing such careers. Although gender roles are certainly reflected throughout history and society, your statement that, "Some women don't want to be scientists because they want to spend more time with their families...," is reflective in itself of this stereotype of women as the caretakers of the home, of the stereotypical stay-at-home mom. And despite the fact that it is without a doubt maternal instinct that draws a mother to her home, her career choices are probably defined by many more factors than simply her duties as a mother, as a wife, or the tendencies of certain work fields. Furthermore, this same phenomenon can also be perceived within the world of finance. So is it maybe just a discrimination against powerful women within the workplace overall that should be dealt with? And how long, if ever, will it take for the conventional roles of males as leaders in the workplace be challenged?


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