Thursday, March 22, 2012

Girls and Science

One of the great things about having a blog is that sometimes people send you cool things and ask you to post them! When I was asked to check out and potentially post this information about Girls and Science, I jumped at the chance!

I fear one of the things that my books will have to overcome is the "ick" factor. I'm targeting girls with my writing, but as many girls grow up they begin to think bugs are "gross". {Don't get me started on how wrong I think this is.} It's one reason my bug girl books, which began as YA, are now MG.

Check out this amazing info-graphic about girls, science, and engineering.

What do you think is going on here?

Does society sway girls from an interest in things mathematical and scientific? Is it adults and teachers? Peers? Or is something else going on?

What do you think?

Girls in STEM

Created by: Engineering Degree

24 comments:

  1. Logically, there's no reason why women should question their abilities compared to men (or vice versa) in math and science. I've heard that one reason for the early IQ difference is that boys mature later. It also seems that girls are more academically inclined through grade school, which again might simply be tied to maturity. I recall when I was in school, the girls were generally better students across the board, whether it was math, science, history, english, or whatever.

    Interestingly, if you look at the field of writers, especially in YA, there appears to me a huge disparity in the number of women vs. men. Is this simply the way we're wired, or is there social pressure on both sides (science/engineering are manly, literature is girly)?

    I would hate to think there's any active discrimination going on with either gender. If you're able to do a job, qualified to do that job, and have a passion to work in that field, gender shouldn't come into it.

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  2. This is a tough one to answer. I think we're still programmed through who knows what to go into certain fields. And then, even if females decide to pursue typically male-dominated professions, in many cases they get run off. In college (when I was going through for Accounting before deciding to pursue Teaching), we were in the same wing as the Trades guys, and it was constant catcalls and lewdness. And we weren't even in the same program as these guys! It was like a construction site.

    Although, the same can also be said for some typically female-dominated professions. I've heard that guys interested in Nursing (who would be awesome at it) get run of by the females in the program who completely outnumber them. It's really sad that we still can't shake these ideas of Men's jobs and Women's jobs. We say we've moved ahead, but have we?

    Great post and I apologize for babbling :D

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  3. Just one more thought re: females getting run off: When I worked for the police I was shocked at how evenly split our department was between males and females. That's great! But right now our federal police force, the RCMP (aka The Mounties) are drawing huge media attention for years of sexual harrassment and mistreatment of the women in their ranks. It's still a boys' club, apparently. This probably happens in all too many of these types of professions, sadly.

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  4. When I was an undergrad getting my degree in fisheries science, I was one of 3 girls in my department--out of close to 45 people. None of the professors were women, and it was daunting as a female.

    There's no denying that hardcore field work gets tricky when you have to plan for mixed genders (sleeping arrangements, heavy grunt work, etc.). I *really* tried to be just as good as the guys--my marks were certainly much better--but when it came down to field work, I was physically limited. I couldn't lift the fifty pound catfish out of the water like the guys; I couldn't haul in the fish-laden nets; and I could only carry half as much equipment. It didn't matter how much I dominated in the lab or the classroom, the field work always reminded EVERYONE that I was "just a girl".

    Anyway, I don't have anything to add in terms of an argument for this or that...I just wanted to say that I worked in a heavily male-dominated field, that it was tough, and that I still pushed through. But, I'm not sure a lot of women would WANT to go through all that--the physically demanding aspect of fisheries science isn't appealing to the average girl OR guy. The two other girls in my department got their BScs, but neither went on to get their MScs, and neither work in fisheries currently. (Though, nor do I...but that's for completely different reasons!) A lot of sciences--especially anything to do with ecology--have some pretty intense physical demands, and though it's tragic more women aren't a part of it, I very much understand why.

    Oh jeez, which brings me to another reason there aren't more women in science: families. The time it takes for a person to complete a Masters, then get a PhD, and THEN complete a post-doc (or more likely 2) is at least 9 years. Probably closer to 10+. So, by the time a woman scientist gets to the point in her career where she has a real job (but no tenure, of course...her job is only stable as long as she continues to publish in peer review [typically with a minimum impact factor]), then she's in her 30s. What if she wants children? Science is so, so, SO time-demanding (not to mention all the travel needed for field work).

    When I was doing my MSc, there was 1 female professor out of 15 in our department. She had two small children, but her mother actually raised the children so that she could continue her career. OBVIOUSLY, this is just one example and many, MANY women in science make families "work"...but it's not easy. And there are certainly other, better paying paths with a great deal less resistance. ;)

    Okay, sorry for the REALLY LONG COMMENT.

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  5. Really interesting! I'm not sure why this is, but I will say my mom is a math teacher and because of that, I was always better at math and science then English while in school. But when I got to college, I chose to focus on English because I liked it more.

    My husband is an engineer, and when he was in college, there were very few women in his classes.

    Interesting topic!

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  6. My husband is an engineer in the tech field and I asked him once about the number of women he works with, and he said it's about 30 in some departments--but nearly all those women were born and studied outside the U.S. (mainly India). It seems there is definitely something in our culture that doesn't see this as a desirable or viable career option for women.

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  7. I was a math-and-science girl until mid-way through college--although I was also a voracious reader and storyteller. I like to think my decision to drop chemistry and switch to literature was mostly because books are my passion--but sometimes I wonder if on some level the bias about women and science played into my decision.

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  8. Oh man, that infographic makes me sad. I'm not sure why the science/engineering gap exists, but I think Susan was close to something when she mentioned family. My sister is in science. She's a doctor. The demands on her profession are so great that she's even considering not having children. She could try to drop to part-time, but that would take her out of the running for partnership.

    Women face this problem in law too (something I'm all too familiar with). We make up half (or maybe even more than half) of all law school graduates, but when you look at partners in firms, women are somewhere in the neighborhood of 20%. Where did the other 30% go? I guess some of them, like me, decided law was a soul-sucking profession and moved on, but that's a small number.

    The same can be said for female CEOs. Where are they? Or women on Wall Street. Or women in any high-powered career, really. Yes, we've come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.

    (Sorry I got off on a little bit of a tangent there. You really got me thinking).

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  9. Great points Colin-- you are so right about female/male writers in YA.

    Interesting Jaime (and I like your babbling!) I like that you gave examples from both sides. There are many programs promoting women in the STEM fields right now, why not programs encouraging men in teaching, nursing, or other female-dominated professions. Good post!

    Love your comment Susan, and I agree on so many of your points. My scienc-y field work was labor intensive (but more about stamina than heavy lifting), but I had a great (male) boss that encouraged me. And I so LIVE that story you describe re:women professors and families. I feel fortunate that my grad school experience was in the NL where I was supported in EVERY way to have a family. Still, it is hard on my husband and kids even now (though the flexible schedule is great). And the idea of having another baby-- I don't feel like I have a "real" choice, because it would be so difficult for all of us. (And I'm not even at a research University) Okay, this is turning into another post. I'll stop. :0)

    I'm not sure either, Ghenet-- and I think the important thing is men and women pursuing whatever interests them, regardless.

    Very interesting Angelica-- I think you're getting at a key facet of this whole thing: whether it's a viable/desirable career. Hmmm.

    Fascinating, Rebecca. I think pursuing your passion is the most important thing.

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  10. Meredith-- great points on all counts. I think it does come back to family. My family sacrifices a lot to "let" me be a full-time worker (though mostly in the way of a dirty house and stressed out mom). Thank God my husband cooks! I am NOT disparaging teachers, but I knew many women in college who majored in teaching because it was "something to do" until they got married.

    Maybe the real problem is that our society expects women to stay at home (and put ANY dreams on hold to do it).

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  11. Those statistics are disappointing, but personally, what I thought made no difference. I stink at math. Maybe I'm allergic to it - wait- there was a law suit about saying that, wasn't there? I think someone sued a department store for stocking a t shirt for girls with that message.

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  12. Carolyn, I remember that t-shirt debacle!
    I think it's okay to be good at math or bad at math! I think it's also possible for people to be good at something (like math) but not really enjoy it-- and that's okay, too.

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  13. I've read a few gender studies books recently, and one of the things that came up is how girls are feminised by Western culture to underestimate their own abilities. In a study (no citation off the top of my head) where men and women took a math test and were told that men did better, the women scored less well. When another group were told the sexes achieved similar scores, the women performed equally well and in some cases better than the men.

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  14. This is awesome. It's interesting, my daughter loves science and social studies, but not math. This was a biological imperative for her. I don't know how much its been built upon by her environment, but I tend to think no. She does go to Montessori though...so there's that.

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  15. In 1916 my grandmother was one woman in a class of 100 men studying for a pharmacy degree. She was an amazing unusual woman.

    After teaching for 20 years in both public and private schools, I have formed some views on girls in science. I think the next years in education will show girls increasing in math and science departments. CSI programs have opened interest in forensic science, and my female students loved the experiments done at middle school level.

    Bugs and all things previously 'icky' are not so horrifying any more. Intelligent females will seek their rightful places in science fields.

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  16. Wow! That is fascinating - thanks you for sharing that info graph. I think it might have something to do with the nature vs. nurture debate, too. Girls develop less confidence as time progresses; but I was one of those lucky cases where I told I was smart and could do anything, and no one ever told me otherwise. I went into Biology, because I loved science, but hated math. That's where I think our genetics probably come into play. Less women have brains "wired" for math? Just a guess.

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  17. Isn't that amazing Sophia? I am a big believer that we shape what we can/cannot achieve by what we tell ourselves.

    Interesting Christa-- I have read about maria montessori and I admire her work, but our kids did not go to the Montessori school (the one near us was crazy expensive). I don't think all girls MUST love math, I wonder whether the ones who do will stick with it.

    Susan-- very cool! I love the stories of women who broke the mold back in the day. What was easy and simple for me must have been so different for her.

    Margo- what a gift, to be told you could do anything! :0)

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  18. What an interesting discussion! I can honestly say that I'm surprised by the statistics. When I was in college, I knew a lot of women pursuing math and science degrees--at least as many, if not more, than those who were pursuing other courses of study.

    But I guess a lot of those women aren't working in their fields. Starting families has sure played a big part in that for a lot of them, and I think the economy had something to do with it, too. We graduated right at the height of the economic crisis, so we all felt the pinch of trying to find our first post-graduation jobs when there were none to be had. It's possible that this unfortunate societal view that women can't be scientists and mathemeticians swayed a lot of hiring decisions. I'm not even in a scientific field, and I've been passed up for positions "more suited" for men.

    And for the record, I love bugs. Except for Pale Windscorpions. They are creepy. ;)

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  19. What an interesting discussion! I can honestly say that I'm surprised by the statistics. When I was in college, I knew a lot of women pursuing math and science degrees--at least as many, if not more, than those who were pursuing other courses of study.

    But I guess a lot of those women aren't working in their fields. Starting families has sure played a big part in that for a lot of them, and I think the economy had something to do with it, too. We graduated right at the height of the economic crisis, so we all felt the pinch of trying to find our first post-graduation jobs when there were none to be had. It's possible that this unfortunate societal view that women can't be scientists and mathemeticians swayed a lot of hiring decisions. I'm not even in a scientific field, and I've been passed up for positions "more suited" for men.

    And for the record, I love bugs. Except for Pale Windscorpions. They are creepy. ;)

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  20. Jess- so nice to "see" you on here! I'm curious to know where you went to college? I wonder if there are some states where the general statistics are more or less true. I'm from the deep south, where I think gender roles are more emphasized (though of course there are always lots of exceptions).
    I've never heard of the pale windscorpion, but it doesn't sound cuddly. :0)

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  21. Thanks for posting this! And cool discussion!

    I've read that women who pick nontraditional professions do receive negative feedback from others, both from males and other females.

    We're "allowed" to pick any profession, but there are prices to pay for that.

    As for physically demanding, I've heard that working in a nursing home is one of the most physically demanding jobs to do, and yet no one questions the fact that mostly women do that.

    But, overall, I do think that men are the greatest factor in the lack of women in the science and math fields...starting with the middle/high school girls' interest in getting boys' attention. What subjects we pursue in school and as a career do affect which boys/men we attract...for high school girls, a love life can easily outweigh a love of science and math, especially if there are other more "acceptable" avenues to pursue.

    As for pursuing a family...if the responsibilities of childrearing weighed as heavily on the men as the women then we could all pursue whatever careers we wanted.

    (sorry so long...it's a meaningful subject to me)

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  22. Jennifer- I love your long comment. You make so many excellent points!

    Posting this has made me realize how thrilled I am to know so many women AND men who write smart books with intelligent kids in them!

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  23. I think you've touched a nerve here, Bug Lady! ; )

    Seriously, we cannot help but be influenced by what the world does around us, and thus what we believe to be expected of us will shape us in some way. That goes for men, women, kids, etc. We're going to channel and reflect the world we live in. That's why I think we should always be mindful of the language we use and be careful to not perpetuate the negative stereotypes that do exist. It can make a difference.

    That being said, do I think we should live life in some kind of neutral gear that refuses to recognize our differences? Absolutely not! Men and women are NOT identical. Biologically, emotionally--you name it--we are different. That's part of the beauty of life.

    Just be careful to not confuse convention with requirement is all I'm saying.

    Great post!

    EJ

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  24. So, so true EJ! I think it's sometimes difficult to celebrate what makes us different, because of all the other issues and concerns over fairness, etc.

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YAY for comments! Thanks for adding to the conversation.