You’ll Believe God (and the future scientist) is a Woman

Think about a scientist. What do they look like? I can almost assume that most people imagined the stereotypically white, male scientist we see in every textbook and movie. 

Image result for albert einstein

Often times, we neglect thinking about scientists who are women and/or of color because it has been shown to us, since our first science classes, that science is dominated by white men. Don’t believe me? Here’s some statistics from ngcproject.org:

  • 62% women work in social sciences but only 15% engineering and 25% mathematical sciences
    • 11.1% of physicists and astronomers are women
    • 35.2% of chemists are women
    • 7.9% of mechanical engineers are women
  • Hispanics, blacks, and Native American/Alaska Natives make up a smaller proportion of the science and engineering workforce (11%) than their proportion in the general public
  • In 2013, 70% of workers in science and engineering were white

Now these numbers should cause some discomfort. STEM has always been a predominantly male field that we’ve learned to accept when we were just children. According to ngcproject.org, boys and girls both succeeded in STEM related classes when in K-12 education but once higher education began, gender disparities came to the surface. In 2012, as little as 11.2% of bachelor degrees in science and engineering were awarded to minority women.

What can we as future educators do to help?

Before getting into how future science teachers can help to encourage women and minorities to go into STEM, here is a TEDx Talk from scientist Nicole Salazar:

It all comes down to EQUITY, which is the quality of being fair and impartial. Many people think that equality for women and minorities is needed in STEM, but in reality it’s based on equity, which is giving everyone what they need to be successful.

Curiosity in science starts from the minute students begin exploring and learning about the world. Using STEM activities, that are hands-on, will fulfill this need to explore and might be more fun than just reading the textbook and answering questions. Also, exposing them to scientists and engineers that are women or minorities will show them that everyone can be a scientist versus just showing the same picture of Albert Einstein with his tongue out for the 80th time.

According to weareteachers.com, here are 5 things teachers can do to encourage more girls and minorities to get interested in STEM

  1. Emphasize the creativity in engineering
    1. Engineering can involve innovative ideas and artistic abilities as well as the analytical side
  2. Ask your students what their interested in, then DO IT
  3.  Put tools in their hands and let them experiment
    1. Giving young students tools and science equipment in the classroom can foster that curiosity, young
  4. Surround them with support
    1. Encourage young girls and minorities to join clubs and find other people that are interested in STEM
    2. A good support system is beneficial to anyone interested in science
  5. Connect with women and minorities working in STEM careers, RIGHT NOW
    1. Allowing young students to see that everyone can be a scientist will more likely push girls and students of different backgrounds to consider a STEM future

https://twitter.com/k_kopack_sci/status/1062866946549526529

“There is no problem in science that can be solved by a man that cannot be solved by a woman.” ~Vera Rubin (Astronomer)

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6 Responses to You’ll Believe God (and the future scientist) is a Woman

  1. kopackka says:

    Thank you! I think that almost anything that students are interested in can be tied back to science and the standards. Science is the basis to just about everything and it’s the teacher and the student’s jobs, together, to help find that connection between interests and the standards. Students may even bring up things that are more beneficial than what the teacher had planned and they can still follow the standards. Overall, I think that, that is the beauty in teaching, where it can be a mutual learning opportunity!

  2. kopackka says:

    Thank you!
    I think I would try to be involved in some sort of STEM club or activity where my students, that I see everyday, wouldn’t be intimidated by. The personal connection could be a great way to get more women and minorities involved because they don’t have to feel as judged. I would also love to expose students to women and minorities in STEM as much as possible to show all students that everyone can be involved in science!

  3. kopackka says:

    Wyatt,
    Thank you! I tried to include information on how to connect those students better to the classroom to encourage them to follow a path into STEM. I think different kinds of parts or mechanical pieces would be a great way to allow students to build things and be creative with those ideas. In my field classroom, the teacher provided materials for students to build ‘rollercoasters’ which was fun because the students very much enjoyed that. I think activities that provoke creativity don’t need to be aided by scientific equipment all the time for students to learn and explore. Household objects can sometimes do the trick!

  4. bischowj says:

    Kacey,
    I loved your blog. I also believe it’s especially important to support our future students as well as engage in them in their interests. I know when I was researching for this blog, an article I came across spoke about a decrease in interest of STEM in women and minorities due to the inability to relate; in other words, they felt excluded from the field. I think your ideas help foster a genuine connection! (We also have the same graphic, NICE) What kind of tools and scientific equipment will you use in your future classroom to inspire creativity?

  5. haiberm says:

    Loved your blog! I think you have really great ideas to help get more women and minorities involved in STEM. I think you’re right that a good support system is crucial for people to be able to pursue what their passion is. How can you show your students that you are also a resource for them as well as pushing them to join clubs, etc? I also really like the idea of connecting them with women and minorities that are in STEM right now. When I was in high school, my teacher would occasionally bring in women working professionally in science and that really had an impact on me! Great post!

  6. thomasbs says:

    Kacey,
    Amazing post! I really loved your title and the intro paragraph, they’re very attention-grabbing! Your statistics are also eye-opening. I also really love your ways for how teachers can be involved in equity and the ending quote you have! How would you suggest we intertwine our students’ interests with the standards?

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