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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.
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