On STEM Women, we did a series of posts on women who are pioneers in STEM (Science Technology Engineering & Math). I wrote a piece about Evelyn Boyd Granville, who was only the second African American woman to gain a PhD in Mathematics in the USA, in the early 1940s. I especially loved reading all her personal recollections of the sacrifices that her mother and aunt made to put her through university. It seems a moot point to say that parents play a pivotal role in their children’s success. This is not so simple when we understand the empirical evidence of how institutional and social forces can limit parents and children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Parents don’t always know how to support girls into STEM careers, and more importantly, they don’t always have the resources or knowledge about where to seek additional help. This is especially pertinent for the careers of minority women in STEM.
Granville was raised in a single parent home by Julia Boyd, her poor working mother who wholeheartedly supported her daughter’s education. This was a very brave move given that in the 1940s, there were few educational or work opportunities for women in science, let alone for minority women. Granville recalls:

I saw black women - attractive, well dressed women - teaching school, and I wanted to be a teacher because that’s all I saw. I was not aware of any other profession… I did not receive a scholarship the first year at (Smith College), and I was told later that they didn’t see how in the world a poor child as I could afford to go there. 

Granville faced much discrimination along the way, not just in finding work despite her obvious brilliance, but in other ways that should have impeded her progress. For example, she was not able to find accommodation in New York when she moved there to undertake her postdoctoral work. 
Learn more about this phenomenal woman from our STEM Women page on Google+! High-res

On STEM Women, we did a series of posts on women who are pioneers in STEM (Science Technology Engineering & Math). I wrote a piece about Evelyn Boyd Granville, who was only the second African American woman to gain a PhD in Mathematics in the USA, in the early 1940s. I especially loved reading all her personal recollections of the sacrifices that her mother and aunt made to put her through university. It seems a moot point to say that parents play a pivotal role in their children’s success. This is not so simple when we understand the empirical evidence of how institutional and social forces can limit parents and children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Parents don’t always know how to support girls into STEM careers, and more importantly, they don’t always have the resources or knowledge about where to seek additional help. This is especially pertinent for the careers of minority women in STEM.

Granville was raised in a single parent home by Julia Boyd, her poor working mother who wholeheartedly supported her daughter’s education. This was a very brave move given that in the 1940s, there were few educational or work opportunities for women in science, let alone for minority women. Granville recalls:

I saw black women - attractive, well dressed women - teaching school, and I wanted to be a teacher because that’s all I saw. I was not aware of any other profession… I did not receive a scholarship the first year at (Smith College), and I was told later that they didn’t see how in the world a poor child as I could afford to go there. 

Granville faced much discrimination along the way, not just in finding work despite her obvious brilliance, but in other ways that should have impeded her progress. For example, she was not able to find accommodation in New York when she moved there to undertake her postdoctoral work. 

Learn more about this phenomenal woman from our STEM Women page on Google+!

Recently I joined Women in STEM, a group of women researchers committed to addressing gender inequality in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Earlier today Dr Buddhini Samarasinghe and I co-hosted the first of our new fortnightly interview series. We’ll be talking with STEM professionals who want to advance gender diversity in the sciences. 

Today’s chat was with Professor Jonathan Eisen, an evolutionary biologist and editor-in-chief of the open-access journal PLoS Biology. Jonathan was a fantastic guest who spoke candidly about the need for male academics to be more proactive in addressing inequality. He gave some practical examples of how women’s participation in science can be bolstered by simple measures, such as by: offering childcare as part of academic conference services; through diversity training for hiring panels; and providing better mentorship for young women in science. 

I gave a shout out to sociology during the Hangout. I noted that while sociologists still face career barriers regarding race, gender, sexuality and other minority relations, we have a shared language to discuss inequality. Sociology is centrally concerned with addressing disadvantage, so we have the vocabulary and training to start conversations about these issues. Most other disciplines don’t talk about inequality at all. This means that women are expected to suffer in silence and navigate career barriers alone. As Buddhini points out, academia represents a “leaky pipe” where the further up you go in an academic faculty, the less women and minorities there are.

Gender and diversity matters should be central to all academic training, at every level, and for all disciplines.

There is a plethora of studies showing inequality is a fact in science. STEM Women starts off from this position and so we ask: what are going to do to move forward and address this disadvantage? 

Join us on Google+ or Twitter and check out our website.

This is a nice illustration of a basic mathematical principle that the general public does not always understand when they are presented with statistics. The media in particular do a poor job of conveying the simple fact that correlation does not equal causation. (See a larger image here.)
Source: SEO Blog via Ria. High-res

This is a nice illustration of a basic mathematical principle that the general public does not always understand when they are presented with statistics. The media in particular do a poor job of conveying the simple fact that correlation does not equal causation. (See a larger image here.)

Source: SEO Blog via Ria.

Gender differences in maths abilities varies in different countries

Writing for Sociological Images, Philip N. Cohen reports that the stereotype that men are innately better at maths than women is not supported by the evidence. He uses data from an international study by Jonathan Kane and Janet Mert, published in the Notices of the American Mathematical Society. Cohen writes:

The main message I get is that gender ability in math differs so much across social contexts that any conclusion about “natural” ability is untenable. Also, gender equality is good.

Cohen writes:

In the Czech Republic there is no difference in either the means or the distributions for boys versus girls, and the average ability is high. Bahrain shows a much greater variance for boys versus girls — which is sometimes used to explain why to many top achievers are men — but women’s average is higher. Finally, in Tunisia the girls have a higher variance but a lower mean. Where’s the natural ability story?