Why Are There So Few Lady Scientists? (Hint: It's Not Brain Chemistry)

Today, women have more opportunities than ever, and in so many ways, we're capitalizing on them. Our representation in colleges is at an all-time high, for starters. In fact, since 1982, women have earned 10 million more college degrees than men. So, why are we still so underrepresented in the sciences? Is it, as some have implied, because women's brains are hindered by an inability to think "scientifically"?
In this week's New York Times Magazine, journalist Eileen Pollack — who herself studied physics as an undergrad, but did not pursue science as a career — takes a long look at the complex cultural interactions that inform the dearth of women choosing academic science as a career.
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She brings up the infamous resume study involving an open lab manager position. Researchers sent out identical, fictional resumes to all professors, but half received the resume from "John" and the other half from "Jennifer." The results were astounding, with respondents ranking John higher on every scale of employability — competence, hireability, and the extent to which the professor might be willing to mentor the student — except one, "likability."
The respondents also answered that they would offer a starting salary of $30,238 for John but only $26,508 for Jennifer. How's that for a wage gap? In addition, Pollack also explores how we view young people interested in the sciences. Are we more willing to accept a girl giving up on a difficult physics class than a boy? Are there ways we stigmatize girls who are great at math — portraying them in films and on TV as socially clueless nerds?
Whatever the reasons, the physical brain structure of a woman shouldn't be counted among them — now that women have more equal access to higher education, they are in fact pursing math and science at higher rates than ever. Now, it's on us to create a culture that encourages them to stake their claim in say, astrophysics, and make a career there. Click through to read the entire breakdown. (The New York Times Magazine)
girlsciPhoto Via The New York Times.
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