Interesting news from Japan: Tohoku University has decided to launch an outreach effort to encourage more girls to pursue science. Rather than relying on secondary school science classes to whip up enthusiam for science, the university is recruiting its own women graduate students in the sciences to serve as role models and mentors.
Tohoku University is to dispatch "Science Angels"--female volunteer students from its graduate school--to primary, middle and high schools in Sendai to attract more females into science. ...
The volunteers will visits schools in the city to interest female students in science and will also provide consultations for females visiting the university campus. ...
Prof. Motoko Kotani, who is in charge of the program, said, "An analysis of academic performance by 15-year-olds shows that women are not inferior to men in scientific subjects."
"The Angels will talk about their studies and daily life, and become role models for the younger generations," Kotani said.
Studying science is one thing. Seeing yourself as a future scientist requires an additional imaginative leap. If seeing real live women training to be scientists can help more girls make this imaginative leap, that's a good thing.
Hat tip: Feministe
I think this is a very unique way to inspire young students and I think it has a good chance of succeeding. It makes me wonder if we could establish something similar here in the states.
I have thought a lot about the issue of role models, as I am one by default. It is definitely a good thing for girls to see women as scientists, but it isn't enough. It is very common for young women to think that they can't do science and/or math, so I (and other women scientists) must be different from them because I/we can. I hear this from female students all the time, and it is disheartening. I feel like I have failed at being a role model for reasons I can't do much about. Girls start to believe at a very early age that they can't 'do' science and math. I suppose if these role model programs get even a few girls to think that they could be scientists, compared to not even considering this as a career, then the programs are successful. http://science-professor.blogspot.com/