UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON
GENDER BIAS IN
A PAPER SUBMITTED TO
DR. TERRENCE WALKER
FOR SILC 6030 03
SCHOOL OF EDUCATION
The Commission for the Advancement of Women and Minorities in Science,
Engineering, and Technology Development (CAWMSET) announced on July
13, 2000, that the shortage of skilled workers in high-tech jobs will lead to an
economic crisis unless more under-represented individuals pursue education
and careers in science, engineering and technology. (CAWMSET, 2000).
Introduction (Statement of the Problem)
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics there is a national shortage of scientists and engineers in the workforce, which is expected to increase ~44% in the next ten years (up to ~108% in computer science). Currently, only ~11% of persons entering fields in science, engineering and technology are women. The National Science Board of the National Science Foundation considers women, blacks, and Hispanics to be a largely untapped pool with great potential for increasing the scientific workforce of the nation. The Commission for the Advancement of Women and Minorities in Science, Engineering, and Technology Development (CAWMSET) announced on July 13, 2000, that the shortage of skilled workers in high-tech jobs will lead to an economic crisis unless more under-represented individuals pursue education and careers in science, engineering and technology. (CAWMSET, 2000).
My question is "Why do women take less science classes, choose fewer degrees, and careers in engineering, science and technology than men?" Specifically, I am interested in why girls begin school with an interest in science and leave school without one. I will look at what efforts have been made to change this historically, and what techniques teachers can use to encourage girls in science.
Significance of the Problem
"Just the Facts Ma’am, Just the Facts" states Sergeant Joe Friday of the Los Angeles police force. So what are the facts surrounding this concern? What is the significance of the problem?
There is currently a shortage in the U.S. of workers in science, engineering and technology. Currently 1 in 10 positions in computer engineering jobs are vacant. Of all the occupations expected to have higher employment over the next ten years, six are in engineering and computer-related fields. The shortage of S&E (science and engineering) jobs is expected to increase by 44% over the next ten years. The demand for engineers in is expected to increase by 18% nationally and 40% in Texas. The demand for computer scientists and engineers is expected to increase by 108%. Because of this many high tech firms have turned to foreign nationals to fill the gap. And thus Congress raised the ceiling on the number of temporary work visas through the year 2002 and may do so again (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2000).
Today, only 11% of engineers are female. In 1995, of the 1,600+ living scientists elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) only 70 were women (NAS, 1995). Of degrees in engineering granted to women, 16% are undergraduate degrees and 11% are graduate degrees (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2000). 60% of students enrolled in first year high school physics are male and 70% of second year physics students are male (Council of Chief state School Officers, 1991). Of students taking the SAT 18% of males consider careers in engineering, while only 3% of females do (National Science Foundation, 1990). Sadly, over 50 percent of academically able students who enter college to pursue a science major, decide to change to a non-science major and opt out of the pipeline (National Science Foundation, 1989).
The number of women pursuing degrees in computer science and information technology has gone down every year during the past decade. From 1984 to 1994, computer science degrees decreased 23.5 percent. Given the shrinking pipeline of women in computer science it is likely the percentage of masters degrees awarded to women over the next few years will continue to decline (National Science Foundation, 1995). Females account for less than 20% of enrollment in advanced computer science classes but dominate data-entry courses preparing them for lower paying clerical jobs (American Association of University Women, 1998).
"Men are scientists. It is a masculine job career, women don’t go into it because being a scientist will make them look bad" (American female, age 15). "A scientist is totally involved in work. Therefore they don’t care about their appearance. They wear white coats, have beards – cause they’re men" (Australian female, age 15). The composite picture of a scientist developed from student drawings in Great Britain shows "A man in a white coat with a bald head and glasses writing on a clipboard standing in front of a bench covered with apparatus" (Fraser & Giddings, 1987). Yet research shows that English-speaking girls and boys actually start off equal in science (and math) performance and interest in school. In secondary school, as these courses become optional there is a decline in the enrollment of female students in math and science and a decrease in achievement and interest (National Science Foundation, 1995). The American Association for Engineering Education (1989) studied young women who went on to study engineering. These young women stated that while their teachers encouraged them to continue in their chosen field their counselors as a rule did not.
In secondary schools students have rated school on a number of dimensions including the masculine/feminine scale. Physics and woodworking were rated the most masculine subjects followed by mathematics and then chemistry. History and biology were considered neutral, and English, French, typing and cooking were considered feminine (Weinreich and Haste, 1981 in Fraser and Giddings, 1987).
Gender Bias in Science
Achievement in scientific (and mathematical) fields is governed by three major factors. These factors are the ‘opportunity to learn science (and mathematics)’, ‘achievement in science (and mathematics)’, and ‘the decision to pursue a science career’ (Oakes, 1990). Historically, only recently have women been given the opportunity on a regular basis to become well educated in science.
Women’s traditional role in society has excluded women from succeeding in science, a historically male-dominated profession. The root cause of the decline in women’s enrollment and performance in science and engineering classes may be due to a cultural tradition of what is considered feminine and what is considered masculine. Cultural beliefs can foster gender-biased teaching styles and the production of gender-biased materials.
The idea of educating women has not been popular, in fact in the late 1800’s considered dangerous to educate women’s minds. It was thought that it could result in women’s sterility or even in hysteria, since women’s minds were too small or even that the blood flow to their uteruses might be halted (Sadker and Sadker, 1999). In the 1800’s it was considered more important to educate the boys, since it was the men who worked outside of the home and needed to learn certain skill (reading, writing, arithmetic). If women were taught how to read, it was so that they could read the Bible to their family (Walker, 2000).
In the 1900’s women courses of study still tended towards classes that were considered less difficult such as secretarial and home economics courses. These led to a variety of low-paying positions available to women. This was acceptable, since it was understood that women would discontinue working after marriage. Even today in computer science young women are more likely to be found taking word-processing and data entry classes rather than advanced programming which have higher numbers of boys (Wilson, 1992).
In 1990, Sue Rosser wrote in Female Friendly Science about the social and academic isolation of women who do in fact become scientists and engineers. She quoted women who spoke of leaving the profession because of the lack of other female colleagues and feelings of isolation despite some professional success. Feelings of invisibility also persist for women in traditionally male positions in the sciences. Although women’s papers are often accepted by journals and at conferences, women make up relatively few of the members of the prestigious boards, committees, and judges of these journals and very few of the keynote speakers at conferences (Rosser, 1990). Males have historically held these positions and they are as difficult to break into as male-dominated executive positions are in business.
While women receive degrees in most fields in numbering approaching or exceeding their 51% of the population, women have not yet broken down the gender barrier in the physical sciences, mathematics and engineering. (Rosser, 1995). Women’s studies scholars have looked at the ways in which science as it is currently taught reflects masculine approach to the world that tends to exclude women. Since many science, math, engineering and technology teachers are also male (often coaches at the secondary level) this fact perpetuates the role model. Women employed in the sciences concentrate primarily on the life sciences and social sciences (Rosser, 1995).
Science Education and Women
In the 1996 research study by Sandra Hanson funded by the National Science Foundation, Lost Talent: Women in the Sciences looked at the science experiences of young women in the United States in the following four categories: achievement, access, attitudes and activities (in math and science). Ms. Hanson’s goal was to evaluate who and why women ‘exit’ out of the sciences by the time it is to choose a career.
Young women score lower on standardized science tests beginning in the 7th grade and then on standardized math tests by the 10th grade. These same young women are also outperforming the rest of the young men in school and have overall higher grade point averages. After high school, women are more likely to enter into college, but less likely to enter into the sciences.
Young women take fewer and fewer math and science classes (particularly physics) as they go through middle and high school. After high school young men are more likely to have taken post secondary math and science courses and to choose math or science as a career.
A majority of young women in the early high school years disagree with ideas about young men being better in math and science. A majority of young women say that science will be useful to them and look forward to science classes. But by tenth grade they have a more negative attitude. Young women are more likely at this age not to see the usefulness of science anymore. Fewer aspire to an occupation in science or math, and more feel tense or scared about math class.
In middle school young men are more likely to have talked to a scientist or been to a computer club, and have computers at home. In high schools young men still have the edge in computer and calculator use and in conducting experiments. Young women start out with a deficit in experiential science and math-related activities, but seem to gain some ground over time. Young women spend more time on math and science homework in school. They report that after high school they use computers and calculators on a more frequent basis. This is most likely due to the fact that more data entry, clerical, and secretarial jobs require them.
Almost half the young women in the sample who showed signs of promise, opted out of the pipeline by the end of the six-year tracking study. Women were rated as 7% more likely than young men to exit out of the sciences completely. Interestingly, young women with equal financial resources were more likely than young men to stay in the field through out the study period. Most likely due to the social and academic standards of the family (parents). Young women who do stay in the sciences are reported to have much higher educational achievement and expectation than other women do.
The researchers found that growing up in a rural community negatively impacted the students exiting the sciences. Other research studies have correlated the idea that peer group systems that stress romance are a critical factor in steering young women away from math and science. Fear of peer rejection accompanies the idea that men don’t want women who have science jobs.
In 1981, Alison Kelly proposed in The Missing Half three main reasons for young women avoidance of science. First, that young women see science as difficult and have less confidence in their abilities, second that young women see science as a "masculine" field, and third that they see science as impersonal. A young woman’s view of the world is global, more concerned about people. Young women seem perceive the science world to be removed from humanity and do not easily relate to it. The question then becomes, ‘Is this because of the science itself, or how the science is taught’?
Parker, Rennie and Fraser (1996) recommend that teachers, teacher educators and curriculum writers recognize and understand the importance of different world views of science and critique current practices with respect to gender equity. They must be familiar with a range of strategies for addressing gender issues. If gendered perceptions (stereotyping) separate women from science, they believe that sex-differentiated patterns of classroom interactions may be the cause.
Alison Kelly in Science for Girls? (1987) notes that initially researchers wanted to know why young women avoided science and looked for the answer in young women’s attitudes and personality traits, in a sense blaming the victim. This psychologistic angle implies that if young women don’t do science, there must be something wrong with how they perceive science. Intervention strategies were planned to boost their self-confidence and "correct their misconceptions".
Alternatively more recent research asks if the fault lies with how science is taught in school and how it perceived by society. Studies over the past ten years have proved that boys and girls have different classroom experiences because they approach learning differently (although the reasons continue to be debated) and because teachers treat them differently. Expectations for achievement for young women in some subjects are usually lower, as they are for members of other minorities.
Why young women lose their interest in math and science is probably the result of many factors, including a decline in self-esteem as society encourages young women to focus on their bodies at the expense of their minds. Historically, math and science was not considered appropriate for young women. A belief that young women should not reveal (or revel in) their intelligence, lest it compromise their sexual desirability.
Young women are also often not given as much information about career possibilities that require competence in advanced math and science classes (Schwartz and Hanson, 1992). They are not introduced to many role models in their textbooks (Potter, E. & Rosser, S., 1992), or through mentoring relationships with successful math, science and technological professionals (and role models are an important factor in elevating a young person’s aspirations). Some parents may unconsciously fail to provide support for their daughters technical interests either by directing them elsewhere, or by giving their support for that type of education to their sons instead (Schwartz and Hanson, 1992).
Gender Bias in Science Education
In the classroom young women tend to prefer to use a conversational style that fosters group consensus and build ideas on top of each other. Conversely boys learn through argument and individual activity. Females tend to place more emphasis on mutual support and building collaborative knowledge. Males tend to place more importance on individual expertise and the debate abstract concepts. Most classroom discourse is organized to accommodate male learning patterns. Historically, the classroom structure designed to foster non-collaborative independent thinking is most supportive of the white male, middle class socialization model (Pearson and West, 1991).
Teachers set the standard for discourse in the classroom. Reliance on teaching methods that adheres to the traditional beliefs about gender difference benefits only male students. For example, teachers that believe that participation is an indicator of learning are likely to ignore females because they participate less than males. Males demand more attention and complain more if they are not receiving it. Teachers are often unconscious of this tendency as they respond automatically to student demands for attention. Research shows that boys often take three times as many turns speaking in the lower grades Redpath and Claire, 1989) and speak up to twelve times longer in college discussions (Krupnick, 1985).
Sadker and Sadker (1999) discuss gender blindness in their article on gender bias in Multicultural Education: Issues and Perspectives. This inability to see that we are treating our students differently is one of the most difficult aspects of gender bias in the classroom. In their 1984 study of more than 100 classrooms of 4th, 6th and 8th grade students it was found that teachers gave more academic attention to boys. They asked boys more questions and responded with more precise feedback. Meanwhile the young women were more often ignored or merely given a vague evaluation of the quality of their answer. Even when young women do speak up they tend to ask more questions, acknowledge other’s comments more and refrain from interrupting. These tendencies can lead teachers to believe they have less knowledge of the topic.
Young women’s conduct in the classroom is consistent with accepted sex-role behavior that compromises women’s assertiveness (Hendrick and Strange, 1989). By allowing classroom discourse to parallel sex-role differences in society teachers can unconsciously pass on negative expectations for young women (Schwartz and Hanson, 1992).
Classrooms are frequently organized in ways that allows students of the same gender (and race) to sit together. In addition to this, students tend to gender segregate themselves. These occurrences lead teachers to certain places in the classroom more often. The more noisy and demanding groups (generally, boys) receive most of their attention. Note that not only do the high achieving males get more attention but so do the low-achieving males. There are a higher number of boys in special education. About two-thirds of special education students are male (Dept. of Education, 1988). Young women tend to be more invisible and receive less attention.
Gender differences are not very apparent in the elementary grades. In the middle school young women begin to have more negative attitudes about science than do boys. In addition both boys and girls believe that girls will have a harder time achieving their aspirations than boys will. Young women report a higher level of stress and depression and lower levels of self-confidence than boys do (Sadker and Sadker, 1999). 46% of boys reported they were "happy the way I am" in a study funded by the American Association of University Women in 1990, but only 29% of the young women.
Gender experiences however show a marked degree of difference between boys and girls. The National Assessment of Educational Progress asked a sample of students in grades 7-11 how often they had tried to fix something electrical or mechanical. Female students in grade 7 were three times more likely to report that they had never done so. In the 11th grade, 93 percent of the boys had reported doing so at least once, while only 66 percent of the young women had done so (Blosser, 1990). Action toys for boys teach core mathematics concepts at early ages to young boys (velocity, angles, three-dimensional configurations) while young women usually experience these concepts for the first time in school at age five or six (Schwartz and Hanson, 1992). Through out their school years young women report a fewer number of experiences with mechanical, electrical or scientific nature.
In high school, young women have the same opportunities to take academic and non-academic classes as boys, but choose math and science classes at a lower rate. The motivation to enroll in these classes appears to be different for boys and girls. Parental expectations for scientific and technical careers motivate boys, while for girls; their own educational aspirations provide the motivation (Tsuji and Ziegler, 1990). Women must be more self-motivated in order to take the classes in the first place.
Studies of junior high school student show that students of both sexes are unaware of career options and the educational requirements for them. Therefore if boys take courses due to parental pressure they still have made the correct choices. Young women who need inherent reasons are less likely to choose the courses that could lead them into high-tech careers (Tsuji and Ziegler, 1990). Intervention by teachers to help students become aware of the relevance of taking advanced science and math courses (needed to pursue high tech careers) is necessary.
Enrichment Programs and Mentoring
Evaluations of special programs for young women in math and science indicate that interventions can make a difference. Six months after attending a one-day career conference, young women’s math and science career interests and course-taking plans were higher than prior to the conference. Three years of follow up of an annual four-week summer program on math/science and sports for groups of average minority junior high girls found they increased their math and science course-taking plans increased an average of 40% and are actually taking the courses.
Two and a half years of follow-up at a two week residential science institute for minority and white high school junior girls (already interested in science) found that the program decreased the participants stereotypes about people who were "good in science" and reduced their feelings of isolation by strengthening their commitments to careers in math and science (American Association of University Women, 1992).
One of the most valuable experiences a gifted student can have is exposure to a mentor who is willing to share personal values, a particular interest, time, talents, and skills. When the experience is properly structured and the mentor is a good match for the student, the relationship can provide both mentor and student with encouragement, inspiration, new insights, and other personal rewards.
Internships and apprenticeships are valuable because they allow students to learn new skills and investigate potential career interests. A mentorship, on the other hand, is a dynamic shared relationship in which values, attitudes, passions, and traditions are passed from one person to another and internalized. Research and case studies focusing on mentors and mentorships often address the effects of the mentor in terms of career advancement, particularly for women (Kerr, 1983).
Kaufmann's 1981 and 199 study of Presidential Scholars beginning in 1964 included questions about the nature, role, and influence of the young women’s most significant mentors. They reported that having a role model, support, and encouragement were all benefits. Kaufmann's research also underscored the critical importance of mentors for gifted young women. The study, conducted 15 years after these students graduated from high school, indicated that when the earning powers of the women were equal to those of the men, the women had had one or more mentors. In other words, the presence of a mentor may equalize earning power.
Mentor relationships with dedicated scholars; artists, scientists, or business people are highly suitable for gifted adolescents, particularly those who have mastered the essentials of the high school curriculum. Many of these students have multiple potentials (they like everything and are good at everything) and may encounter college and career planning problems if they cannot establish priorities or set long-term goals (Kerr, 1985). Such students may have more options and alternatives than they can realistically consider. Parents often notice that mentors have a maturing effect: Students suddenly develop a vision of what they can become, find a sense of direction, and focus their efforts.
Students from disadvantaged populations may also benefit strongly from mentor relationships (McIntosh & Greenlaw, 1990). Mentor programs throughout the nation match bright disadvantaged youngsters of all ages with professionals. Student self-confidence and aspirations are raised as the relationship grows and develops. Young adolescents gain a sense of the mentor's profession and the educational background it required. These relationships sometimes extend far beyond the boundaries of local schools, where they often start, as mentors become extended family members and, later, colleagues.
The NASA Texas Aerospace Scholars program that I manage at the Johnson Space Center uses this model. We pair 8-10 NASA engineers with scholars who have an interest in science, math and technology in a mentoring experience. Our 16-year-old scholars commit to a 4-year follow-up series of activities and relationships. So far we have had an extraordinarily large number of young women volunteer for activities after the program. It will be interesting to track their participation.
Sadker and Sadker (1994) list seven forms of bias that can be used to evaluate instructional materials including textbooks. These include invisibility, linguistic bias, stereotyping, imbalance, unreality, fragmentation and cosmetic bias. Invisibility or the lack of information about women in textbooks (only 2-3% in current textbooks) leads to a general lowering of opinion about the importance of women’s contributions by both boys and girls. When asked for example to name 25 famous women from American history, most students could not do it. Linguistic bias or the use of masculine terms and pronouns persists in the classroom despite a recent trend to eradicate it. Use of older textbooks that do not address gender free language can lead to unconscious stereotyping. Stereotyping of male and female roles and characteristics are common in instructional materials. Role models for males and females are often traditional and exclusionary, again leading towards limited expectations for young women.
Imbalance or single interpretations of issues are an avoidance of the complexity of situations and also avoid controversy. One example is describing the time when women were ‘given’ the right to vote versus ‘winning’ it through the fight for suffrage. Unreality or giving misleading information to cover over unpleasant issues such as ‘women are more equal to men in the workforce’ rather than women only make 74 cents to a man’s dollar’ is another type of gender bias found in instructional materials. Fragmentation or the division of women’s issues into a completely separate section is extremely common these days. Instead of including women in amongst the achievements of men, women are relegated to a separate arena leading to the misconception that their influences are not widely felt. NASA a strongly white male organization has one link on their web site entitled the Women of NASA. This link showcases a few women that have managed to become leaders in their field – however the many women who have supported NASA through out its history are not a part of the main web site.
Finally cosmetic bias provides an illusion of inclusion but is in actuality only a superficial marketing strategy that showcases female contributions through an eye-catching section while including little actual content. Teachers who assess their materials with a clear eye towards these items will be taking another step towards creating a gender bias free classroom. Providing students with gender fair materials can help to encourage young women to enter traditionally male careers.
Strategies for Improvement
There are three types of intervention strategies to eliminate gender bias in the classroom and help encourage young women in science. They are cognitive level strategies (designed to provide information and increase awareness), affective level strategies (focused on increasing self-confidence and relieving anxiety about performance), and achievement level strategies (designed to result in increased ability resulting in improved achievement). Cognitive level strategies include information about career options and the range of possibilities within science, math and technological fields. Materials, speakers, workshops, hands-on experiences and courses will affect student attitudes towards science in a positive way.
It is believed that young women benefit from cooperative learning situations and in hands-on experiences. Affective level strategies include the use of more cooperative learning groups to relieve girls’ anxieties about performing. Young women have fewer experiences with science activities and so the inclusion of more hands-on activities will also increase self-confidence. It is important to use heterogeneous and cooperative groups to promote a high level of participation for all students, and to arrange for meaningful science role models as a part of class. The elimination of "tracking" levels in middle school and high school to help increase student self-confidence has also been recommended. Science education reform literature states that all teachers can enable students to achieve greater success in science when they attempt to make the curriculum more unified and flexible. Teachers must also make science curricula personally meaningful to students.
Achievement level strategies include having schools establish more specific requirements so those students must take more science, math and technology courses. Also we must ensure that the tests and assessment procedures used are unbiased and supportive of meaningful science instruction. Schools should also support more enriching science education opportunities rather than ineffective remedial programs. It is also important to try and garner more support for science achievement from parents, peers and the community (Klein, 1990).
Female Friendly Science
Based on current research new approaches have evolved to teaching traditional material, more "female friendly" techniques. Sue Rosser in Teaching the Majority: Breaking the Gender Barrier in Science, Mathematics and Engineering (1995) acknowledge the influence of gender on scientific theory. As scientific theories are the product of individuals it has been suggested that the absence of women from the decision-making levels of science has produced a science that views the world from a male perspective. Because scientific theories, practices and approaches may reflect a masculine approach to the natural physical world, the teaching of science in the lecture hall, classroom and laboratory may also reflect that perspective. She recommends the series of techniques that follows.
1. Undertake fewer experiments likely to have applications of direct benefit to the military and propose more experiments to explore problems of social concern.
Most women are more likely to understand and care about solving problems that do not involve guns, violence and war. Much research in basic science is funded by or linked with the military. Many studies have documented the attraction for science for women when they can see it’s social usefulness for human beings.
2. Include problems that have not been considered worthy of scientific investigation because of the field they are associated with.
Presenting problems that have to do with traditionally non-male roles such as nursing or home economics can be more effective in reaching females and give them identifiable references.
3. Use interactive methods to approach investigations of problems with a more holistic, global scope.
Research suggests that teenage girls approach problem solving from the perspective of interdependence and relationship rather than from the hierarchical view favored by most teenage boys. Boys may be more comfortable dealing problems that have a single answer, while young women lean towards solving complex problems and dealing in ambiguities. Young women feel more comfortable approaching problems if they can understand their context or "the big picture"
4. Expand the kinds of observations beyond those traditionally carried out in scientific research.
Expectations of faculty can convince young women that they are not observing the "right" things in an experiment since scientific inquiry has long been dominated by males who determined what was interesting and important to study. In truth, more accurate perceptions of reality come from a diversity of scientists with varied perspectives. Since women’s expectations may be different, women may note different factors in their observations. These have lead to the discovery of new data making valuable contributions to scientific experiments.
5. Increase the number of observations and remain longer in the observational stage of the scientific method.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress indicates that young women have significantly fewer science experiences than boys of the same age do (NAEP, 1988). Since young women receive lower test scores and have a less positive attitude towards science despite their apparent interest (shown by high enrollment patterns) and there is a disparity between the use of scientific equipment and work with experimental materials, they may be directly related. Lower performance may be related to a significantly fewer science activities outside the classroom. In addition, often because of time constraints the observational stage of an experiment is shortened and students are simply given data for analysis. This is quite detrimental to young women who already have fewer extracurricular opportunities for hands-on experiences.
6. Incorporate and validate women’s personal experiences as part of class discussions or lab exercises.
People learn more effectively when they can identify with a problem. Using examples and equipment that women are more likely to be familiar with can help alleviate initial anxiety. Simply switching from a stereotyped male gender role in a problem scenario to one that is female or neutral can accomplish this.
7. Search for women scientists and their contributions and use the history of science to demonstrate that women have been successful in the field despite extreme barriers
Emphasize the lives of ordinary women scientists as well as Nobel Prize winners. Bring up the many contributions by women through out history in a variety of scientific fields. Despite extreme barriers many women have been successful.
8. Use less competitive models and more interdisciplinary methods
Though boys may thrive on competition, to see who can "finish first", young women seem to learn more easily when cooperative methods are used, preferring situations where "everyone wins". Using less competitive models makes math and science more attractive to young women. One university altered the teaching of first-year college science courses from the "weeding-out" model to one that lays a foundation for further science classes. In addition, tutoring by peers and collaborative work seem to be effective for retaining females in the science disciplines.
Because of their interest in relationships and interdependence young women are more attracted to science when they perceive its usefulness. One college offers interdisciplinary classes stressing the applications of mathematics in sociology, economics and chemistry. They also offer a five year dual degree that allows students to receive bachelor degrees in both liberal arts and engineering.
9. Discuss the role of science and engineering as a career that must be integrated into the rest of the aspect’s of students’ lives.
Young women tend to worry about the difficulty of combining a family with a career and may perceive the rigors of a science or technological degree as too difficult. Julia Everts in Gender and Career in Science and Engineering (1990) speculates that women who are successful in these careers are seen as the type who rejects or limits the demands of family. This as a career pattern may be unappealing to some women.
10. Put increased efforts into strategies such as teaching and communicating with non-scientific persons to help break down barriers.
Arcane and unintelligible terminology used in scientific professions, combined with their complexity may intimidate female students. Some research points to the fact that females face an additional barrier of having their answers and theories about science devalued because of speech patterns and other verbal (and non verbal) methods of communication. By structuring the curriculum to include more information on communications and ethics we can reach those female students who are reported to place a greater emphasis on general education, communication skills and the development of high ethical standards.
11. Discuss the practical use to which scientific discoveries are put.
The social context of science and technology, the way it impacts peoples lives, is a powerful argument for women considering these careers. The positive social benefits are very important for women. Research has shown that when asked about a mechanical problem, boys will see it as a technical problem needing fixing, while young women will view the same problem in its social context, such as who will suffer because of the problem.
12. Use precise gender neutral language in describing data and presenting theories.
Sexist language continues to have a negative effect on the young women in the classroom, such as the sexist jokes commonly found on computer boards.
13. Encourage development of ideas that are relational, interdependent and multi-causal.
Lab classes tend to be very simplistic, in their attempt to provide clear demonstrations teachers consciously avoid experiments focusing on relationships among multiple factors. Providing more complex contexts for studying problems can not only make the problems more attractive to females but also provide a more realistic picture of how science is influenced by other parameters.
14. Encourage the uncovering of other related biases.
Data collected from programs recruiting minorities into the sciences have found that minorities of both sexes may fail to be attracted to science for the same reasons as women. Racism among scientists and the use of scientific theories to justify racism are powerful deterrents.
It is believed that all of these goals will work towards gender and racial equity as well as general educational reform in science. Many teachers are unaware of the extent of the gender bias in their classrooms, however with access to the proper resources; a supportive school structure and awareness training they can eliminate gender bias in their instructional techniques and achieve more equity in their teaching methods.
Changing the public image of science to reflect diversity can provide young women with more inside information similar to that which ‘daughters of scientists seem to get naturally’ (AAUW, 1992). Meeting and working with women in scientific fields can reduce these negative stereotypes about science and engineering. Providing young women with more hands-on experiences to allow them to catch up makes a difference. Having students actually try out science problems before they experience them in class appears to narrow the experience gap between the sexes and reduce gender differences in performance (AAUW, 1992).
Providing a classroom atmosphere where all students are encouraged to answer questions, ask questions and get feedback from the instructor (rather than one that emphasizes the students who are the most verbal) will increase young women’s interest and opportunities to succeed. Special programs can also increase the number of science and math classes young women choose to take. We need to continue to expand and develop special programs to encourage young women to study math and science since these programs can offer young women the opportunity to learn together to overcome stereotypes.
Methods I recommend to help eliminate gender-bias in the classroom include: using historical role models, developing mentor relationships by women in science and engineering professions, using gender-bias free textbooks and reading material and a non-biased teaching style. We must train our teachers in order to increase their awareness of the issue. Evaluating teacher’s styles and materials for gender-bias and making the appropriate changes should be part of a principal’s job.
To address the shortage of engineers we must as a nation increase the number of engineers entering into high tech jobs. We must also increase the number of young women and minorities who take advanced science, math, technology and engineering classes in school. To do this we must establish an attitude change. If parents believe that their daughters can succeed in and master math, science and technology they will provide them with opportunities and toys to promote readiness and encourage them to sustain their study of these subjects. If teachers understand and respect female learning styles they will alter teaching styles to accommodate young women’s participation and provide a message to both sexes that no one learning behavior is best. (Schwartz and Hanson, 1992)
Just as important as making changes in teaching methods are making changes in the curricula. Cooperative learning promotes collegiality between male and female students. By structuring lessons around problem solving rather than focusing only on the correct answer can advance gender equality. Problem-solving scenarios themselves must reflect both boys and girls experience. They must not be limited to stereotypes, and should emphasis real life situations.
Finally, providing the opportunity for young women to interact as peers, mentors and role models for each other will strengthen their interest and participation in these subjects. Gender bias in career counseling, a highly crucial determining event must be eliminated. Only when young women remain firmly convinced that they can both learn and use math, science and technology for professional success will equity occur in the school and in the workplace.
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