Math + Science + Women = It’s Happening

Well this is ridiculous. A recent article in Nature found that, “despite some progress, women scientists are still paid less, promoted less, win fewer grants and are more likely to leave research than similarly qualified men.” The same article in Popular Science that mentioned that study cited stats that only one in five physics Ph.Ds are given to women in the U.S. (New York Times magazine), and that both male and female professors looking at the exact same two resumes were more likely to rate “John” as “more competent, hirable, and deserving of mentoring and a higher salary than ‘Jennifer’,” who was rated as more “likable” (2012 Yale study):


This is disturbing. I thought back to my years in school. While I don’t remember feeling discouraged from studying math or science, there were definitely way less girls in my AP Calculus class than AP English or U.S. History…by about 2-to-1. It got even worse in college, where I wasn’t required to take a single math or science class to graduate from journalism school, and very few girls I knew were studying math or science (to be fair, I went to a liberal arts school…so not too surprising). In the end, I followed my parents’ advice and am happy: Do what I love — and I love words. But at the same time, what happened to the girls who were awesome graphing parabolas in high school — but ended up studying psychology?

I asked Olivier if it was the same at schools over in France, a much more socially liberal country in many ways than the US, which has quotas for women in the workplace and where beauty pageants were banned this year because they placed too much focus on beauty for little girls. He said that over there things were pretty much equal….until college. In high school, kids choose one of three tracks that decide their path from college to career: Literature, Economics, or Science, and the gender split was about equal in all three. That all changed by the time he got to prep school (a competitive engineering school after high school and before college) and then his tech/science university, when the number of girls dwindled compared to boys.

Why do girls give up on numbers and algorithms? For one, if all of your friends are going to a liberal arts university and you’ll be the only girl at the engineering school, it’s a lot harder to pick the engineering school (especially at 18…). That’s especially true if your parents don’t encourage you to study math or science. No matter where you grow up, you’re influenced by what your parents did for work and by what they encouraged you to study. So if mom (or dad) isn’t an engineer or banker and they don’t encourage you to try coding or calculus in school, you’re way less likely to end up with a job at a startup or a lab.

All of that said, things are WAY better for us ladies than they were just 100 years ago, when most women weren’t even allowed out of the home alone (much less to have a job), and trends are headed in the right direction for women fast (even if it’s not as fast as most of us would like):


As more women get into math, science & tech careers, it’s a snowball: in time, more girls will have the example of  girlfriends studying these fields and mothers in those careers. And women who kick butt at these careers will, with any hope, change the minds of people who are hiring for these positions.

All of that said,  stores that sell crap like THIS today are’t making things any easier for any of us:



3 thoughts on “Math + Science + Women = It’s Happening

  1. Pingback: Women Who Are Killing It: Week of October 7 | See Girl Write.

  2. Pingback: Women Who Are Killing It: Week of October 7 | colleencanney

  3. Pingback: The Atlantic & Slate Ask: Are Women Changing Men? Yes We Are! | Breaking Blonde

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