This afternoon I listened to an NPR Science Friday podcast from August 16. Hosted by Flora Lichtman, it was a discussion among several professional women about why, 40 years after Title XI was passed to help equalize education (not just sports teams) for women in college, little has changed for women entering STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields.
This is not a rant about how “the man” is keeping us down and won’t let us play. I’m concerned that many of our country’s brightest people aren’t pursuing degrees and careers in the fields that will grow our economy and keep our country on the cutting edge.
Here is a link to the episode. They’ve also kindly supplied a transcript in case you are like me, and can read faster than you can listen:
What struck me are how some of these concepts about why women don’t finish degrees in STEM, or pursue the careers, are the same now as they were in 1975 when I graduated from high school, or in 1982 when I obtained my chemical engineering degree. I was among 5% of the women in my graduation class in engineering school; in 2012, 30 years later, my friend’s daughter graduated in engineering at the same university and was among….5% women. I’ve written about this before here.
I’d be interested in hearing your experiences and opinions. Some of the things I recall:
- Asking for chemistry sets or microscopes for Christmas and being given books (acceptable!) or other items. Never the science-y thing.
- Being steered towards journalism and French in both middle school and high school. I took every math and science class offered, as well as the French and journalism (yearbook and newspaper editor, in fact), except…
- Not taking physics because I had no idea what it was. I had no mentors.
- Having an adviser in college tell me I’d be taking away a man’s job. That is, a man who had a FAMILY to support.
- Being one of two women in my pre-calc class in high school. The other girl was a breathtakingly beautiful cheerleader with bleached platinum hair, whom the boys hovered around like honey bees. When I asked the teacher “Where did you get that?” his answer was often “From the air”. I was made to feel like an outsider. I persevered, but why did it have to be like that?
I’m interested in your experiences.