I found yesterday’s writing prompt to be really interesting and thought-provoking. For those that missed it, it was to write the personal statement that you would not send in.
I took the first thing that popped into my head and wrote about how I love biology, but how it has never been a subject I was comfortable in. I have always felt more confident in any other subject except science (and math). Through my academic career, I have always second-guessed myself in these subjects and have caught myself countless times thinking and worrying that I wasn’t smart enough to pursue that subject. However, I decided to stick with it and I’m glad I did.
After writing my thoughts down, we had to turn to the person next with us and share. My partner (who I will not name because I don’t want to embarrass her) is also a woman pursuing a science-related degree. The shocking thing was that she confided in me the same exact thing – that she too was intimidated by the countless science classes she’s faced with and often second-guesses herself too. As much as this was comforting, knowing I’m not alone, it was also really alarming and puzzling. It really got me thinking.
This seemed like much more than a coincidence to me. What is it about science that intimidates us as women? Why do we so often feel discouraged? I think both of our intimidation and hesitance is just another example of how women are discouraged (and sometimes excluded) from the fields of science, math and tech. It has been in the media a lot lately, how women really need to be encouraged to enter those fields because there simply isn’t enough women there now. Also it has been suggested that more women entering those types of fields would help lower the gender gap in salaries because those fields tend to pay more. However, today, there are still stereotypes and prejudices that keep them away and discourage them. Here are some examples of what I’m talking about:
1. This is something Professor Lucenko RT’ed on twitter, about a woman discussing her career in computer science and the discrimination her daughter faces taking computer science classes: https://www.usenix.org/blog/my-daughters-high-school-programming-teacher
2. Lack of female in twitter’s IT staff, Lack of women in Silicone Valley – Here’s some reasons why: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/05/technology/as-tech-start-ups-surge-ahead-women-seem-to-be-left-behind.html?_r=0
3. This one’s not as recent, but once I saw it last year, it has been in my mind since. Gender bias in science – a controlled study shows that with male and female applicants with the same qualifications applying for the same job – men are more likely to be hired and viewed as more competent and hireable. http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/unofficial-prognosis/2012/09/23/study-shows-gender-bias-in-science-is-real-heres-why-it-matters/
4. This next one is a little more on the silly side, but I think it sums it up very well:
Overall, women need encouragement to pursue what they want to do – especially if it’s math and science. They need to not feel intimidated and discouraged. In my second year of college, I was so close to switching my major – I had a head full of doubt that I would be able to make it. However, at Suffolk Community College, I had two amazing female science teachers (one biology teacher and one chemistry). It may should cheesy, but I was so inspired by them, they were such great role models and I truly believe that seeing them is what made me stick with it. Not only do we need more women in math, science and tech to break the gender gap – we need more role models inspiring more young women like myself.