A few weeks ago, two of my neighbor's daughters were playing out of the sidewalk, and they were pretending to be grown-ups. As I stopped to chat, I asked them what profession they were in, and the enthusiastic response was Science Professor and Motorcycle Builder. I was pretty impressed with these answers, because when I was little, I only really thought of pink-collar jobs like teaching and nursing.
However, if the current climate in male-dominated industries, particularly science and engineering, continues, I hope these girls would have the fortitude to resist the harassment and discrimination that they would undoubtedly face. First, there are the assumptions, a la Larry Summers, that women are just innately bad at math and science. Second, there are the obstacles faced by women as minorities in these fields. To wit, today's column in the Chronicle of Higher Education's Wired Campus blog:
A new Harvard Business Review paper argues that women leave science and technology careers in droves because of “hostile macho cultures” and risk-taking incentives, among other reasons.
The report itself says nothing much new, particularly when compared to the research in Evelyn Murphy's Getting Even. But the worst part of this post is the comments that follow:
The most bothersome part of this exchange (it gets worse as the comments continue) is that these are actual academics engaging in this childish anti-woman behavior. And they think it's funny! I have my own observations from my experience working in a university science department, and I was fortunate to work with a concerned and inclusive department chair. I did see the effects of discrimination on some women professors, one in particular when she came up for tenure.
Why do men persist in trying to keep women out of the sciences? As one Wired Campus commenter points out, they are hurting their own research by excluding women.