Thursday, September 22, 2005

Women in science

I was forwarded this article the other day (from The Stanford Daily). This author's opinion is that women cannot be found in science because science is a crappy place in which to be found.

Not enough women in science? Good for them!
With all the fuss about the low percentage of women faculty in science and engineering, people have started asking, "Why aren't more women going into these fields?"

Maybe the real question is, "Why are so many men going into them?"

Science and engineering demand big investments for uncertain rewards. Students must endure four years of difficult undergraduate courses, perhaps a few years of master's study and around seven years of graduate study to earn a Ph.D. Their reward for a decade of minimum wage apprenticeship? More of the same.

So maybe not going into science isn't a sign that women aren't as capable as men: maybe it's a sign that they're a bit smarter.

Funny, those are the fields in which women are overrepresented. Women make up 80.6 percent of elementary and middle school teachers, 90.2 percent of registered nurses and 89 percent of nursing, psychiatric and home health aides. These are fulfilling careers with good job-growth outlooks. Maybe we need to start asking not, "Why aren't there more women in science and engineering?" but, "Why aren't there more men in nursing and teaching?"


Anonymous said...

This article makes an interesting point about the problems associated with trying to be successful in Science and engineering degrees, but I think the premise that other professions are more rewarding is false. Teachers, pardon my language, get shit on. Nurses can rarely get full time jobs anymore, or if they do, they are terribly over-worked. The grass is always greener, they say, but especially if you never bother to ask your neighbor about it. I don't believe this author did much background research before he stated his opinion, and I am hard pressed to find it valid.


Theo said...

I think the author (Andrea Runyan, a female in Mathematical and Computational Science at Stanford) was being a little sarcastic here. Rather, I think her main point was to highlight the difficulties in math and science that really aren't advertised. They advertise a lot of glory, and people generally think that scientists head into very successful careers and those who choose not to go into science only do it because they aren't "smart enough." Her point here is that you don't have to be "smart enough" for science and you shouldn't expect an easy ride to a successful career. In many ways science is oversold. I think she was really commenting on that. It was just easy to use the other professions (and the equally silly common misunderstandings about them) as a vehicle for her dismay with upper-level science.