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Added: Rosaline Churchwell - Date: 09.09.2021 19:09 - Views: 37765 - Clicks: 7072

Last summer, researchers at Yale published a study proving that physicists, chemists and biologists are likely to view a young male scientist more favorably than a woman with the same qualifications. Presented with identical summaries of the accomplishments of two imaginary applicants, professors at six major research institutions were ificantly more willing to offer the man a job.

Surprisingly, female scientists were as biased as their male counterparts. The new study goes a long way toward providing hard evidence of a continuing bias against women in the sciences.

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Only one-fifth of physics Ph. The s of black and Hispanic scientists are even lower; in a typical year, 13 African-Americans and 20 Latinos of either sex receive Ph. The reasons for those shortages are hardly mysterious — many minority students attend secondary schools that leave them too far behind to catch up in science, and the effects of prejudice at every stage of their education are well documented.

As one of the first two women to earn a bachelor of science degree in physics from Yale — I graduated in — this question concerns me deeply. When I arrived at Yale, I was woefully unprepared. The boys in my introductory physics class, who had taken far more rigorous math and science classes in high school, yawned as our professor sped through the material, while I grew panicked at how little I understood.

The only woman in the room, I debated whether to raise my hand and expose myself to ridicule, thereby losing track of the lecture and falling further behind. At the end of four years, I was exhausted by all the lonely hours I spent catching up to my classmates, hiding my insecurities, struggling to do my problem sets while the boys worked in teams to finish theirs. I was tired of dressing one way to be taken seriously as a scientist while dressing another to feel feminine. I have known Summers since my teens, when he judged my high-school debate team, and he has always struck me as an admirer of smart women.

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When he suggested — among several other pertinent reasons — that innate disparities in scientific and mathematical aptitude at the very highest end of the spectrum might for the paucity of tenured female faculty, I got the sense that he had asked the question because he genuinely cared about the answer. I wanted to understand why I had walked away from my dream, and why so many other women still walk away from theirs. In many waysof course, the climate has become more welcoming to young women who want to study science and math.

Female students at the high school I attended in upstate New York no longer need to teach themselves calculus from a book, and the physics classes are taught by a charismatic young woman. When I first returned to Yale in the fall ofeveryone kept boasting that 30 to 40 percent of the undergraduates majoring in physics and physics-related fields were women.

More remarkable, those young women studied in a department whose chairwoman was the formidable astrophysicist Meg Urry, who earned her Ph. She has a quizzical smile and radiant eyes and an irreverent sense of humor; not one but five people described her to me as the busiest woman on campus. Before we met, Urry predicted that the female students in her department would recognize the struggles she and I had faced but that their support system protected them from the same kind of self-doubt. For instance, under the direction of Bonnie Fleming, the second woman to gain tenure in the physics department at Yale, the students sponsor a semiregular Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics at Yale.

When I mentioned that a tea was being held that afternoon so I could interview female students interested in science and gender, Urry said she would try to attend. Judith Krauss, the professor who was hosting the tea she is the former dean of nursing and now master of Silliman College, where I lived as an undergraduatewarned me that very few students would be interested enough to show up.

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When 80 young women and three curious men crowded into the room, Krauss and I were stunned. By the time Urry hurried in, she was lucky to find a seat. The students clamored to share their stories. One young woman had been disconcerted to find herself one of only three girls in her AP physics course in high school, and even more so when the other two dropped out. Another student was the only girl in her AP physics class from the start.

Other women chimed in to say that their teachers were the ones who teased them the most. The lesbian scientists with whom I spoke, at the tea and elsewhere, reported differing reactions to the gender dynamic of the classroom and the lab, but voiced many of the same concerns as the straight women. Shaken to find herself the only girl in the class, unable to follow the first lecture, she asked the professor: Should I be here? After the tea, a dozen girls stayed to talk.

Is that what it takes? Will I have to be this aggressive in graduate school?

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For the rest of my life? The minute they find out, I can see the guys turn away. After the students left, I asked Urry if she was as flabbergasted as I was. In the two years that followed, I heard similar s echoed among young women in Michigan, upstate New York and Connecticut. If anything, the pressures to be conventionally feminine seem even more intense now than when I was young. Although two of the scientists on the show are women, one, Bernadette, speaks in a voice so shrill it could shatter a test tube. When she was working her way toward a Ph. Mayim Bialik, the actress who plays Amy, a neurobiologist who becomes semiromantically involved with the childlike but brilliant physicist Sheldon, really does have a Ph.

And what remotely normal young woman would want to imagine herself as dowdy, socially clueless Amy rather than as stylish, bouncy, math-and-science-illiterate Penny? Although Americans take for granted that scientists are geeks, in other cultures a gift for math is often seen as demonstrating that a person is intuitive and creative. Inthe American Mathematical Society published data from a of prestigious international competitions in an effort to track standout performers.

The American competitors were almost always the children of immigrants, and very rarely female. For example, between andBulgaria sent 21 girls to the International Mathematical Olympiad, while the U. Consequently, gifted girls, even more so than boys, usually camouflage their mathematical talent to fit in well with their peers.

In the early s, a large group of American middle-schoolers were given the SAT exam in math; among those who scored higher thanboys outperformed girls by 13 to 1. And these were all American students. First and foremost, some countries identify and nurture females with very high ability in mathematics at a much higher frequency than do others.

If girls were so constrained by their biology, how could their scores have risen so steadily in such a short time? In elementary school, girls and boys perform equally well in math and science. But by the time they reach high school, when those subjects begin to seem more difficult to students of both sexes, the s diverge.

Although the percentage of girls among all students taking high-school physics rose to 47 percent in from about 39 percent inthat figure has remained constant into the new millennium. And the s become more alarming when you look at AP classes rather than general physics, and at the scores on AP exams rather than mere attendance in AP classes. The statistics tend to be a bit more encouraging in AP calculus, but they are far worse in computer science.

Maybe boys care more about physics and computer science than girls do. But an equally plausible explanation is that boys are encouraged to tough out difficult courses in unpopular subjects, while girls, no matter how smart, receive fewer arguments from their parents, teachers or guidance counselors if they drop a physics class or shrug off an AP exam. In a frequently cited study, a sample of University of Michigan students with similarly strong backgrounds and abilities in math were divided into two groups.

In the first, the students were told that men perform better on math tests than women; in the second, the students were assured that despite what they might have heard, there was no difference between male and female performance. Both groups were given a math test.

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In the first, the men outscored the women by 20 points; in the second, the men scored only 2 points higher. Less than one-third of the white American males who populate the ranks of engineering, computer science, math and the physical sciences scored higher than on their math SATs, and more than one-third scored below In the middle ranks, hard work, determination and encouragement seem to be as important as raw talent.

The most powerful determinant of whether a woman goes on in science might be whether anyone encourages her to go on. My freshman year at Yale, I earned a 32 on my first physics midterm. My parents urged me to switch majors. All they wanted was that I be able to earn a living until I married a man who could support me, and physics seemed unlikely to accomplish either goal. I trudged up Science Hill to ask my professor, Michael Zeller, to my withdrawal slip.

Not on the midterms — in the courses. The story sounded like something a nice professor would invent to make his least talented student feel less dumb. Seeing my confusion, he told me that he had been on the swimming team at Stanford. But he kept coming in second. I stayed in the course. Week after week, I struggled to do my problem sets, until they no longer seemed impenetrable. The deeper I now tunnel into my four-inch-thick freshman physics textbook, the more equations I find festooned with comet-like exclamation points and theorems whose beauty I noted with exploding novas of hot-pink asterisks.

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The markings in the book return me to a time when, sitting in my cramped dorm room, I suddenly grasped some principle that governs the way objects interact, whether here on earth or light years distant, and I marveled that such vastness and complexity could be reducible to the equation I had highlighted in my book. Could anything have been more thrilling than comprehending an entirely new way of seeing, a reality more real than the real itself? I earned a B in the course; the next semester I got an A. By the start of my senior year, I was at the top of my class, with the most experience conducting research.

But not a single professor asked me if I was going on to graduate school. Not even the math professor who supervised my senior thesis urged me to go on for a Ph. I had spent nine months missing parties, skipping dinners and losing sleep, trying to figure out why waves — of sound, of light, of anything — travel in a spherical shell, like the skin of a balloon, in any odd-dimensional space, but like a solid bowling ball in any space of even dimension.

I was dying to ask if my ability to solve the problem meant that I was good enough to make it as a theoretical physicist.

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