She-Science

[Editor’s Note: This article was written by the CTL’s Laurie Hansen.]

I have a short Q&A for you:

Q: “What is STEM?”

A: “STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and

Mathematics.”

Q: “Why are there so few women in the STEM fields?”

A: Well, here is my (biased) answer, as a female educator with two small, female children:

“There just isn’t enough time in a day!”

The American Association of University Women: AAUW Panel Discussion supported that girls need to be “primed” for Science at an early age;  we need to “welcome” women into science and include affirmative action.  We also need to present learning opportunities to girls and women in the STEM fields.

The panel also acknowledged that caregivers (for the most part, women) are short on time.  Along with her colleagues on the panel, Dr. Claire Van Ummersen also shared that we need to “We need to structurally and culturally change our college campuses [and] this takes leadership from the top [because] with all of the global competition for talent, we cannot afford to lose half of the talent [that] we could have in the Sciences and engineering by not providing the environment that will help them, [girls and women], to grow and be successful.”

When Dr. Van Ummersen finished, someone whispered, “Hear!  Hear!”  My sentiments exactly!

Facilitate change with AAUW Programs in a Box!

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One response to “She-Science

  1. Jonathan Groves

    Dear All,

    I have seen the acronym STEM used frequently in online discussions about education. For example, participants on mathedcc and math-teach, discussion groups both available on Math Forum at http://www.mathforum.org, use this acronym frequently; I had first learned it there. We refer to STEM frequently because one of the central questions about mathematics education is about curricula and courses and teaching methods designed for STEM students versus non-STEM students.

    Two of my friends from graduate school(yes, both are women!) are working on PhD’s in STEM education. One has a Master’s degree in mathematics, and the other one has a Master’s degree in statistics.

    Last week had marked the beginning of one of the hugest events in mathematics: the meeting of the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM). This year also marks a significant progress for women mathematicians as well: I was intrigued and very pleased to see that, for this first time this year, the women mathematicians planning to go to the ICM had organized their own meeting several days before the ICM to focus solely on women mathematicians and their work. So this year is indeed a huge one for women mathematicians because of the first ever meeting of the International Congress of Women Mathematicians (ICWM).

    I had not seen the answer “Because there is not enough time in a day” as a reason for few women in STEM fields though that answer makes sense. The reason I have always seen was the myths about women being less intelligent in STEM fields or that STEM fields are “men’s work” that our culture continues to teach either directly or indirectly to girls. Another reason I have seen is that many girls may have learned math anxiety from their female elementary school teachers; see http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory?id=9657816 as one reference to such studies. So all these appear to me to be good reasons for why we see relatively few women in STEM fields.

    I agree that it is a shame to see all the potential talent we lose if few women choose STEM fields. I admire those who work to try to encourage more women to think about STEM careers–especially if they have the talent for these careers. And I certainly admire those mathematicians who try to work to make mathematics more accessible to women and to encourage those women with talent to become mathematicians.

    Jonathan Groves

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