Whenever I see an article about female role models in math and science, it bothers me a little because I don’t think that lack of role models are the main reason why there aren’t many women in math and science fields. From what I’ve seen in my professional experience, the problem is the way in which women in math and science fields are treated.
We can’t just go out and send a bunch of girls to take math and science classes, then expect that we’ll end up with a bunch of female mathematicians and scientists. The problem is that once they get into the workforce – and sometimes even the problem starts in the classroom – they’re treated like they’re not wanted there. And sure, a lot of men are also treated like they’re not wanted there, however the problem is often much worse for women.
In male dominated workplaces, women are still treated like objects, often like sex objects. Often they’re treated like secretaries even if they have a PhD. As we saw in an the ABC news clip of an FAA conference, some men thought it was normal to ask women in a professional venue whether she was a hooker. When I worked in the FAA the building, I had to experience that type of treatment every day.
Thus I feel a moral obligation to first let society know what it is like to work in a math and science field. I also wish to encourage girls to learn as much math and science as they can. However I do not want to give girls the impression that doing so will lead them into a Pollyanna environment, as the goal of organized girl science days often seems to be. Instead I believe these young women will need an additional education in being very tough when dealing with these less-than-professional men.
But even more so, these so-called “professional” men first need to learn how to treat women with respect.