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I’m tempted to joke and say “Recruit hotter guys?” but that would be just as wrong as Razib’s charming notion of what cute women read for fun or our uncertain physicist’s misconception that there’s nothing that he can do to improve the situation for female students at his small college. Of course our physicist friend has tenure, now, so perhaps he’ll study up on Zuska’s suggestions. Besides, I don’t really think there’s a shortage of hot geeky guys, Zuska and I both found them, so I know they’re out there.

Making a real difference requires a climate change. Life science enrollment is pretty good, but the other tech classes could do with some anthropogenic global warming.

How do we initiate a permanent change?

If you have ideas, (I know Zuska has plenty), some researchers are seeking your input. The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics has posted a survey to gather your thoughts and suggestions for luring susceptible young women into technical fields.

The Science Education Department at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, MA, recently received a grant from the National Science Foundation to study this important issue in a systematic way. A 3-year project, titled “Persistence Research in Science and Engineering (PRiSE)” and headed by Dr. Philip Sadler, will collect and analyze data from approximately 4,000 college freshmen at 20 institutions, with the goal of identifying the factors that strengthen the interest in pursuing science in college, particularly for female students.

Hopefully, people like Jane, Zuska, and Absinthe will complete the survey and share their ideas for recruiting women to science & tech careers.


  1. #1 Agnostic
    January 5, 2007

    I’m tempted to joke and say “Recruit hotter guys?”

    So the difference is that you bottled up your joke while someone else voiced their observation? If ideas can be dangerous, that’s supposed to hold whether they’re spoken aloud or not. Then either both of you are fine, or both of you are dangerous. I vote the former.

  2. #2 jackie
    January 5, 2007

    You have to create opportunities for them. I’m convinced that women aren’t simply walking away from science. It’s science that is shutting them out or making it difficult for them to enter.

  3. #3 Sandra Porter
    January 5, 2007

    Agnostic – I wasn’t really trying to repress ideas. It’s just that I really don’t believe that the attractiveness of students of the opposite sex in certain programs has an influence on the choice of college majors – either by women or men.

    On the other hand, I do think that the sex ratio of students in a field has an effect on major choice. This is totally speculation, but I bet that fewer men go into fields that are dominated by women, and fewer women go into fields that are dominated by men.

    Jackie – you could be right – at least in terms of life after college.

    The main point for everyone to keep in mind, here, is that the researchers aren’t looking for an explanation of why there are problems – they are looking for your ideas and suggestions for solutions.

  4. #4 Lord
    January 5, 2007

    Rather, they are assuming there is a problem where there is none. Instead they should be looking at how to decrease the number entering fields they are not needed in. Cutting funding of some universities would solve that.

  5. #5 Sandra Porter
    January 5, 2007

    Lord: I guess don’t understand your comment.

    Can you elaborate a bit and give examples of fields that don’t need women?

  6. #6 Michael Brook
    January 7, 2007

    Improvement in mathematics education, especially at lower levels, will make many previously reluctant students into mathematicians, scientists and engineers. This will have an overall salutory effect, and will benefit women and minorities greatly. As 30-year veteran math teacher, I know the answers don’t seem to be easy, but I believe they are there.

  7. #7 Sandra Porter
    January 7, 2007

    Micheal: I totally agree! I think more math practice is proportional to more confidence in doing math and is inversely proportional to the fear of fields that are math intensive.

    I spent quite a bit of time teaching math in my biotechnology courses. Every week we had problem sets on things like making dilutions, making media, determining DNA concentrations, etc. The first quarter was always really painful since many students hadn’t had math in several years. BUT – after three quarters of this, they were confident of their abilities (male and female students) and many came back and thanked me. One – a mother of four, who had been on welfare when we started the biotech program – said that people in her company were coming to her for advice on calculations.

    Math is truly empowering.

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