"There has been a feeling that women are underrepresented in the sciences because of personal or lifestyle choices, but it is clear that gender bias is also present."
Those were the words of a substitute teacher I had in 12th grade. She was older, and so perhaps I wouldn't have been shocked. Except I was. This was because she had just finished telling us that her husband was a professor at a local women's college. A college that I had been thinking of applying to. Needless to say, I chose not to apply there. However, those words haunted me. If a professor at an all women's college still felt that level of bias against women, surely he wasn't the only one.
I am now attending a school that has a really great engineering program, and who have made it a point to say that they encourage women. During orientation, they proudly proclaimed that 27% of the college was women, and that was their best number yet.
Which made me wonder. It's 2012. We have female prime ministers. We're actually the majority of college students in other programs. It's been theorized that the reason Obama won the election was because of Romney's failure to capture female audiences. So why is a school still bragging about the fact that less than 1/3 of their college is made of women?
A recent study revealed that in fields of science, a gender bias still exists. People who look at identical resumes are more likely to hire, mentor, and give higher rank to the resume that displays that it belongs to a male than a woman.
We like to think that we have largely risen above sexism. Yet, the study clearly shows that sexism most definitely does exist.
So what can I do? Well, I’m currently going to school with a math/science heavy curriculum, and I’m going to do my best to not make excuses or fall back on my gender. I have seen firsthand people relying on males to do their work in labs because they “just don’t get it." It’s that kind of hair twirling and eye-batting that has kept us back in the science world. We need to encourage girls to get into science young. At my high school, the girl on the robotics team never touched the robots but instead made all the posters for the club and helped to raise the money. Why? Because the male teacher didn't make them get involved. I know how easy it is to get shut out if you don’t assert yourself. I have left classes saying “I’m not doing well in the class. Maybe this isn't right for me...” while talking to someone who says they’re doing fine only to find out that I have a higher grade than them.
The most shocking thing that study found was that oftentimes women miss out on job opportunities because they simply don’t apply. Men will apply for a job they aren't fully qualified for, whereas women simply see all the things they don’t fulfill. And so the first step is really to stop putting ourselves down. As long as we continue to proclaim that we’re just not very good at math or science, we won’t be. Don't allow yourself to fall into that behavior, and don't let those around you fall into it either.