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Monday, January 27, 2014
Where Are All the Women in Science?
This is a question plaguing Eileen Pollack, one of the first two women to graduate from Yale with a degree in Physics. In 1978. She went on to earn an MFA in Creative Writing and has since become a published writer. She may know a thing or two about what scares women away from the so-called STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Her recent NY Times article explores the question in greater depth.
Naturally, she isn't the first to wonder. The White House is on board. The Office of Science and Technology Policy collaborates with the White House Council on Women and Girls to try and encourage more women in the profession. Million Women Mentors (millionwomenmentors.org) is an awareness-raising organization that attempts to increase the interest of girls and women in STEM study and careers.
Such organizations recognize the fact that, over the last decade, job growth in the STEM-sector has tripled in comparison to non-STEM jobs. Eighty percent of the fastest growing occupations in the US are in the STEM sector. Unfortunately, women comprise just 24% of STEM professionals. Pollack notes that the numbers are notably paltry in academia, particularly in faculty positions.
Pollack and many of the engagement programs agree-part of the problem is that girls and women aren't welcomed into the field. From a very early age, girls are discouraged from even exploring interests that lead to proficiencies in the fields.
Goldieblox, a toy manufacturer, has created a line of building and invention toys targeted for girls. Their goal is to encourage girls to engage in the kind of play-based engineering historically reserved for boys.
Female professionals across the board earn less than their male counterparts. Finding parity in some of the most lucrative professions of all is an important step in closing that gap. If awareness is a key step, then we are already well on our way.
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Women Closing the Gap in Test Scores
The good news first. Women are doing better overall on the Graduate Management Admission Test than they were ten years ago. The GMAT is a standard requirement for the vast majority of business schools. Though the majority of B-Schools now also accept the Graduate Records Examination (GRE), the GMAT is still the standard-bearer.
The bad news? Women are still lagging behind men on test scores for both examinations. In the 2002-2003 admissions cycle, women were scoring-on average-40 points below the men on the GMAT. For 2011-2012, that number has dipped to 20 points. The GRE disparity was more nuanced, with women outperforming men in analytical writing, matching the men on verbal reasoning, but underperforming against the men in quantitative reasoning.
The GMAT tends to be heavy on graduate business subjects like economics, accounting, and chart interpretation. Conversely, the GRE, which is generally required for graduate degrees of all types, has a humanities base, with focus on grammar, literature and logic.
Applying statistical data to social trends is fraught with complications. Still, with women continuing to comprise less than 50% of student populations in business schools, an examination needs to be made. Why do women underperform men in quantitative reasoning tests? Why is this a distinctly American trend? (In China, women actually outperform men on the GMAT).
Fewer women still apply to business school, which may be an indicator of interest. That is, if men are generally more invested in the idea of business school, they may be better-prepared test takers. So long as the profession itself still lags itself in gender-equity, it may just not be as appealing to women. Why go for the MBA if your long-term prospects already have a lower ceiling?
There's no right answer here. For now, the hope is that women aspiring towards an MBA just keep moving the same direction.
Monday, January 13, 2014
Does College Produce Engaged Citizens?
Probably not, says Robert J. Sternberg, in his book "Successful Intelligence". Sternberg was a Yale professor for three decades before becoming a Dean, Provost and then President at three subsequent universities. So he has some perspective on the subject.
Sternberg's question is not necessarily unique. In a merit-based system which relies heavily on objective, quantitative data like grades and test scores, how is it possible to get the best student? More importantly, how do we define "best"?
Affluent children tend to be taught to focus on analytical and critical thinking skills. Children from lower socioeconomic classes tend to be raised with greater emphasis on resilience and problem-solving. Standardized tests like the SAT and ACT favor the wealthy, largely because they test analytical thinking.
But in the real world, resilience, creative thinking, problem-solving and confidence are the markers of success. The gap between street-smart and book-learned is often far and wide, but both skills are necessary to real life.
So how can we make the ivory towers a place where students can be taught to think as well as cope? What good is a university education if graduates fail to invest their knowledge adequately in the society around them? Is it possible to do so in a structure that still allows student performance to be adequately measured?
Sternberg says yes to this one, but notes that colleges first need to change their standards and curriculum. Some universities are edging in that direction-accepting videos and self-made websites as part of the admissions process, and embracing social media as a form of self-expression. But change is a slow traveler. Only time will tell if we as a society can redefine academic success.
Monday, January 6, 2014
Dating and College Admissions
What's the hardest part about dating? The insincerity? Awkward dinner conversation? The energy involved in keeping your guard up? The rejection? Ever thought about how much it feels like the college admission game? No?
Indulge me for a moment.
A recent story reported on National Public Radio, details a now infamous college application brochure for the University of Wisconsin at Madison. The brochure depicts students at a football game, clad in the UW red and white colors, cheering and smiling. All of the students in the picture are white. At least they were. Before going to the final print, the university decided to photoshop in the face of an African-American student.
Diallo Shabazz was, in fact, a UW student, but he'd never actually been to one of their football games. He later sued the university for using his likeness without his permission. The university acknowledged that they wanted to appear more "diverse" for the purpose of wooing students.
Deconstructing the racial dimension is too complex for this post. What the decision says to me is that colleges are engaging in as much puffery as the students that apply to them.
While students are busy dressing up their 10-day trip to Nicaragua as sweeping humanitarian work, colleges are busy literally Photoshopping fabrications into their brochures. What happens once the honeymoon is over?
It's really a reminder of how artificial the process can be. It's why colleges rely on grades and test scores-not just the personal statement. And it's why students really need to research their universities of choice-not judge them by the clothes they're wearing.
More on Shabazz and the diversity-Photoshopping epidemic in my next posting.
Labels: Dating and College Admissions
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