Rebecca Onion is perhaps best known to our readers as a staff writer at Slate, where she started The Vault blog in November 2012 and co-hosted a podcast called “The History of American Slavery” for Slate Academy. Rebecca holds a PhD in American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin, and her first book… Read more →
As a child, did your parents encourage you to participate in a science fair? Perhaps you received a chemistry set or model of the solar system for your birthday. Were you, like me, completely and utterly obsessed with dinosaurs to the point that you begged your parents for books on paleontology and tried to plow… Read more →
On September 24, as I enjoyed my second coffee of the morning and caught up on news, a photo caught my eye. In the image, women in colorful saris congratulated each other amidst massive computer monitors. The exuberance of the photo arrested me — as did the obvious techy setting, nerd that I am —… Read more →
By Carolyn Herbst Lewis
There is much talk these days about girls and STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. In 2009, only 24% of scientists and engineers were women. This is not surprising, given the fact that women comprise only about 17% of the students earning degrees in these subjects, as compared to the 79% of students earning bachelor’s degrees in education. There are material benefits to building careers in STEM. A woman in a STEM-related career earns, on average, 33% more than a woman in a non-STEM field. Given the continued gender wage gap, and the high numbers of women in poverty in this country, it makes sense to encourage an interest in STEM. How to do so has been the tricky part. Colleges and universities — as well as prospective employers — actively recruit women to enroll in STEM programs. But getting young women interested in these fields has been more difficult. The old maxims that girls don’t pursue these interests because “Math class is tough,” and their brains are not “hardwired” for it, no longer suffice. Researchers have found ample evidence that demonstrates that it is a combination of gender conditioning and a lack of role models that make girls feel that they don’t “belong” in STEM. This isn’t just about finding gender equity in the workplace or the college classroom, then; it’s also about reframing the gendered messages we send to young girls and women about femininity and science.