When someone has the audacity to suggest that science is for boys or that girls can’t do math, I’ll simply ask them if they own or have ever used a computer. When they say yes, I tell them to thank a woman — specifically, Admiral Grace Hopper who is, in large part, responsible for the proliferation of computers we see today. Sadly, that sort of discussion happens all too often and, according to a new study of existing research, contributes to the lower numbers of women in the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
The report, called “Why So Few?”, examines decades of research to identify reasons why women are not better represented in technical fields. According to one study referenced in the report, female postdoctoral applicants must publish three additional papers in prestigious journals (or a whopping 20 in lesser journals) to be considered as productive as their male counterparts. The report also noted research that shows that telling girls that girls aren’t as good in math results in them not doing as well in math.
The news isn’t all bad, however. In the upper levels of mathematics, for example, sixth- and seventh-grade boys who scored more than 700 on the math SAT 30 years ago outnumbered girls 13-to-1. Today, however, that gap has closed to 3-to-1. Furthermore, if girls are taught about stereotypes and how they can influence performance, the effects of such stereotypes are not as strong.
So go tell your daughters and nieces and any other young girls out there that we need more women in STEM careers because, after all, if it weren’t for Admiral Grace, we would likely still be reading this on paper.