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Hindi Kornbluth

The Cooper Union For The Advancement of Science and Art

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Will making rockstars out of women in science get more girls interested in science/technology/engineering/math (i.e. STEM) fields?

This week in my bioelectricity class, my classmates and I realized that this was the first engineering class any of us had ever taken where there were more women than men enrolled. We also realized that for most of us, this class, taught by TED fellow Nina Tandon, was the first engineering class we had taken to be taught by a female professor.

Finding ways to close the gender gap in science/technology/engineering/math (i.e. STEM) fields is a hot topic, and there are many discussions out there highlighting the many forces that could be at work: gender-biasing in toys, a culture that tends to oversexualize women (see: the “40 Hottest Women in Tech” list published by Complex Magazine earlier this year), or links between a society’s gender equality and female performance in the sciences. Particularly interesting is the recent finding that 15-year-old girls around the world outperform boys in science, but not in the US, Britain, and Canada.

Thinking back to Nina’s class, I wondered if we could use this class as a microcosm and ask, might we be able to get more interested in STEM fields by providing more female role models?

The potential role models are out there: women from history, like Ada Lovelace, arguably the world’s first computer programmer, and Rosalind Franklin, who discovered the structure of DNA. There’s Lise Meitner, who helped discover nuclear fission, and Emelie Du Chatelet, who predicted the existence of infrared radiation and proved that kinetic energy was proportional to v^2. For more modern inspirations, see: http://blog.ted.com/2012/07/03/more-than-75-tedtalks-showing-women-in-science-and-tech/

In 2009, the NSF reported that than 20% of engineering students were women, out of almost 500,000 students in total. Inspiring young women to go into engineering in equal numbers to men would translate to the education of another 300,000 engineers in the United States alone. How do we make this happen?


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    Apr 12 2013: Hindi, Yeah ... women in many fields have had a tough road to hoe. Last week President Obama made very sexist statements about the Attorney General of California ... about how hot she was. He could have stated her esteemed position but he commented on her looks and body. Kinda kicks all that campaign talk to the curb.

    The good news for your question is the enrollment stats ... more women than men are going to college.

    At General Dynamics in the development phase of the F-22 Raptor there were many females in the design phase. When you suggest "rock star" status for females is that what you really want. Condi Rice was a very effective Secretary of State who also has a deep resume ... then we had Hillary Clinton who was the "rock star" but did not accomplish near as much as Condi and turned the US into a failed diplomatic nation. You never heard about Condi but Hillary was in the news daily. No I will take Condi any day over the poilitician "rock star" hillary.

    Heros do not have to be in the headlines ... do not seek the spotlight .... most work quietly and effectively behind the scenes.

    If someone wants to be in a STEM field then go for it. Women drive race cars, go to the moon, head giant corporations, surgeons, and leaders in every field.

    The thing that should bother you is why some women are highlighted. Is it like Obama said a real looker and a hottie or that she earned her way and does creditable work. I respect one and have distain for the other.

    I have worked for both men and women ... the sex made no difference ... the leadership skills did.

    I wish you well. Bob.

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