News / Science & Technology

    University Biases Keep Women, Minorities Out of Science Careers

    Poor schools, stereotypes, workplace & classroom barriers hold people back

    Mae Jamison, former astronaut [left], promotes science literacy across the United States to produce more scientists and educate young people with a basic level of science and technology understanding.
    Mae Jamison, former astronaut [left], promotes science literacy across the United States to produce more scientists and educate young people with a basic level of science and technology understanding.

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Rosanne Skirble

    Mae Jemison has accomplished many things in life. She is a chemical engineer, medical doctor, college professor, and in 1992, became the first African-American woman astronaut to blast into space.

    New mission

    Jemison now runs her own medical technology company, BioSentient Corporation. She's also a spokesperson for Bayer Corporation's science outreach program.

    Each year since 1995, the company has commissioned a survey on science literacy and workplace issues. This year, it polled 1,200 women and minority chemists and chemical engineers. Careers in science, technology, engineering and math are collectively known as STEM.

    "I think that survey shows that, as minorities and women pursue a STEM career, they have to face a number of barriers along the  pipeline and what we need to do as a society is really understand what these roadblocks are," says Jemison.

    While women and minorities make up two-thirds of the American workforce, they represent less than 25 percent of STEM careers. The survey cites poor schools, lack of quality science and math programs, persistent negative stereotypes, financial cost and school and workplace bias as the reasons why.

    Early interest

    Jemison says the survey also finds children are interested in science at an early age.

    "That means is that kids come out of the chute excited about the world around them. They are interested in what is going on but hit roadblocks. They are really derailed from their track to becoming professional scientists by academic systems and societies that are neither color blind nor gender blind."

    Nearly two-thirds of those polled said women and minorities in STEM careers are under-represented in their companies or institutions. Forty percent said they were discouraged from pursuing their chosen career, typically in college and often by their professors, an experience Jemison remembers from her undergraduate days.

    She says her professors were less than enthusiastic to see her in class. "It ranged from looking at me when I would ask a question as though something was very strange and then some other student would ask the same question and the teacher would say, 'This is an astute observation.'"

    "Why so Few?" finds climates in university science and engineering departments limit women's participation and progress in science and technology fields.
    "Why so Few?" finds climates in university science and engineering departments limit women's participation and progress in science and technology fields.

    Big gap

    Despite a gradual increase in women graduating with undergraduate and graduate degrees in science fields, the gap between men and women remains significant in the U.S. workplace.

    That's according to a second report released this week by the American Association of University Women. "Why So Few?" compiles academic research from the last 15 years. Its findings underscore the social and cultural bias and barriers in higher education reported by the chemists and engineers in the Bayer survey.

    Co-author Andresse St. Rose says, for example, while girls earn high school math credits at the same rate as boys, the myth that girls aren't good at math is persistent and powerful.

    "Because of that negative stereotype, girls are more likely to believe that they are less able in math compared to boys who have similar grades and tests scores in math," says St. Rose.

    But she is hopeful the situation can be reversed. "We believe that people can reset their biases by taking a proactive step, choosing to educate themselves more about women in these fields, by putting up positive images of women in science in their classrooms and in their homes."

    The AAUW report recommends steps to raise awareness about girls' achievement and interest in science, and to get colleges to attract and keep more female students and faculty. St. Rose says all sectors of the community must implement these initiatives in order for them to be successful including, "kindergarten through 12th grade  teachers and guidance counselors, college and university administrators and certainly employers and policymakers."

    Former astronaut Mae Jemison agrees. She says stronger science programs in schools and colleges will not only put more women and minorities in science fields, but also fuel a more literate democracy.

    You May Like

    Candidates' Comments Fly Like New Hampshire Snowflakes

    Four days ahead of the country's first-in-the-nation Republican and Democratic party primary elections, surveys show the parties' contests tightening

    Australian Commander: IS Changing Tactics

    Head of Australian forces in Middle East talks with VOA about training Iraqi troops, countering evolving Islamic State efforts and defeating extremism

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.