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Friday, August 5, 2011

Girls Sweep The Google Science Fair

Winners of the first Google Science Fair (from left to right): Lauren Hodge, Shree Bose, Naomi Shah. (Photo courtesy of The Official Google Blog)

Winners of the first Google Science Fair (from left to right): Lauren Hodge, Shree Bose and Naomi Shah. (Courtesy of The Official Google Blog)

The first-ever Google Science Fair ended last month with females winning all three age categories.

The grand prize went to 17-year-old Shree Bose. The soon-to-be senior at Fort Worth Country Day School in Texas won for her groundbreaking findings into how to prevent resistance to the ovarian cancer drug Cisplatin.

Could this be a sign of the strides women have made in science and engineering?

Statistics show though they’re competing equally with men in terms of receiving science degrees, they still make up a significantly smaller percentage of the science workforce.

The key to advancement, some experts say, is what Shree Bose found in the university scientist who supervised her research: a strong mentor.

Bose told Here & Now‘s Robin Young that finding that mentor wasn’t easy.

“I was a 15-year old girl just randomly asking professors if I could work in their lab, and I got rejected,” she said. “The one who actually accepted me was a woman herself.”


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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_HG6PHJAQJFWTMAMN5XKSZLRV2Y Becca

    I am 42 with a masters in biomedical engineering and have found it very difficult to be taken seriously. As a blonde haired, blue eyed female, it seems I am relegated to being window dressing. I was once introduced by our CEO to an investor as “our beautiful test lab manager.” I felt my IQ points and credibility slipping away before my eyes. VERY frustrating.

    • Joanne Kamens

      well of course, the right response to that is to say “I am beautiful and brilliant aren’t I lucky?” 

    • Sofia

      Dye your hair brown. Then you will be overlooked completely.

      No, seriously, I’m sorry you are not taken seriously. It also has happened to me (with brown hair) in pursuing a career in biology–pushed by (male) faculty advisors to enter teaching, though I was tops in my invertebrate zoology, botany, and anatomy classes.

  • Tasha

    As a young women still in the midst of a high school career, I found it very difficult to find support in my science department. I was very interested in science as a kid, and my parents were convinced that was my destined path. This continued until I took a real science class, which has completely deterred me from pursuing science. I am sad to have deviated from science, and hope to find the encouragement outside of school to reconnect.

    • Joanne Kamens

      see if you have a local chapter of AWIS..those women will inspire and support you.

  • AK

    I am an Assistant Professor of Mathematics and have found it really hard to live in the male dominated world of Math.    In my specialty there are a good number of dominant European women, but I can think of less than ten American women who are still doing research.  I also have problems trying to get male students to show me the respect they would show to a male professor.  I think that some young men are angered by a woman knowing more math than them.

  • B.Tacker

    For your information: The Cambridge Mass. Public School System has had an after school club called , Science Club For Girls for close to 20 years now.  Big pat on the back to all the After School teachers and parents who have kept this program going.

    • http://twitter.com/SCFG ScienceClubforGirls

      Thanks for the shout-out! Indeed, Science Club for Girls
      (scienceclubforgirls.org), a parent-founded organization, has been
      offering girls in Cambridge free after school programs since 1994! The
      school district, principals and teachers as well as other staff have
      been more than supportive.  In more recent years, we have begun to offer
      our programs in Boston, Lawrence and a community church in Newton. And
      we certainly can’t do our work without the support of the 150+ women who
      volunteer their time every week! Kudos to them indeed.

      But it is definitely all our responsibility to make sure that girls are encouraged just as much as boys, and be mindful of any gender biases we may be unconsciously communicating through our words, body language etc that reinforce stereotypes, and discourage girls from being who they truly are.

  • Mae

    I am a female engineer who naively thought when I entered the field discrimination against women in science was over.  For the most part, I was treated well and the discrimination was subtle, but not always.  I had a hard time finding mentors.  There is a push in some companies to promote women into management, which is understandably resented by many men.  However, I wanted to progress up the technical ladder, and that was not really supported.  Early in my career, I put up with sexual harassment and was isolated when attending a conference.  I was seated at lunch with a man I looked up to.  He proceeded to say that women should not work, and, even that women who are full-time homemakers did not need a car.  I thought maybe he just wanted to see my reaction, but when I spoke up (without getting upset)  I was completely ignored.  The other men at the table seemed to go along with everything this highly regarded  engineer said.  That was 15 years ago, but I think it could occur today.

  • Lindsay010

    I left engineering as a profession 19 years ago with the birth of my first child.  When I asked to work part time, they said yes, but when I requested to do so part time with home as my base, they said no.  (Not ready for telecommuting at the time) I quit.  Seems to me that employers have lost out on a lot of good talent by not considering a part time talent pool.  Of my close circle of fellow female engineering/architcture graduate friends, the only ones I know that remain in full time employment in their original field of employment are those who never married.  The rest of us have gone on to second careers in teaching, general office work, accounting, domestic engineering.   Shame on our culture for not doing more to continue to support women scientists!

  • Marilyn

    I was one of 2 women chemistry majors when I was in college in the late 60s.   I was in the top 10% of my class and mentored many the guys.  Still, I was encouraged to get a degree in teaching or as a librarian.  My advisor wouldn’t even hear of my going on to grad school.  Fortunately, I ignored that advice & resisted that pressure, learned about the system on my own and spent many, many enjoyable & satisfiable years in pure research.

  • Staryla

    I am a female electrical engineer.  There are other women engineers where I work, but the vast majority of my coworkers are male.  This makes it hard/impossible to find a close circle of ‘friends’ at work.  Research has shown that having someone at work who is a friend greatly increases work satisfaction.  I listen to my mom (who is a teacher) and my friends with more typically female jobs and am jealous of their circle of work friends.  

    • Joanne Kamens

      You should be looking for groups of women to support you via SWE, or AWIS, Girls in Tech…depends on where you live, but you are right–you need friends in your field to increase your satisfaction.

  • visitor

    My experience in a male-dominated technical field (architecture) had many aspects- some rewarding, many discouraging.  Among the discouraging aspects were a) dealing with a stereotypical “male” culture that promoted drinking, rudeness, suspicion, assigning blame instead of solving the problem, and withholding information to get ahead; and b) no acknowledgement that yes, women may do things differently, but that different is not the same as insufficient.  The results were not evaluated – only the means.

  • Cody

    When I was a child I wanted to become a botanist, but as a young adult I didn’t have much focus, so later in my twenties, after having children, I finally put myself through college and earned an accounting degree which has served me well, but for which I have no passion.  I am now, at age 52, taking the first steps towards leaving the accounting field and pursuing an undergraduate degree in botony.  I’ll need a lot of the basics just to get started, so I believe it will take me three years to do it.  I’m already concerned about competing with 20 somethings for entry level jobs at age 55, I hadn’t even considered gender discrimination issues.  ARRRRGH!!!!!  Would love to hear any thoughts on this crazy dream I am pursuing. 

    • 30_something

      How old will you be in 3 years if you do NOT pursue your dream?

  • Prodigalvani

    How does age factor in to the deficit of female representation at the higher levels? 
    I might hypothesize that these levels have more older people with older ways of thinking who will die off. Remember all grad and PHD students are mentored by people age 40-60. 

  • rici

    To quote my son “Not all men are the same”, yet my sisters
    both non conformists, an engineer and an electrician, stubbornly resist male
    pressure with their innate don’t mess with me attitudes. I have come to learn
    that, that is what it takes. You have to be focused on the job and have no need
    of acceptance unfortunately humans are social creatures. You have to be a
    fighter. The statistics have to make you mad enough not to give up. You have to
    look to the future and realize that through the ages different cultures rise
    and fall, but women are always left behind consistently. I do not want to see
    the gains made by the women that went before me, to be lost. If we are more
    than 50% of the population, we should hold more than 50% of the jobs. I heard
    google/microsoft employees are only 20% females. Let us see them have 50%.
    Yesterday I was looking to go to an IT security conference. I wouldn’t expect
    to see many women.

  • EddieK

    I have heard numerous times from the leaders of scientific and medical academic societies about the importance of accommodation of personal and family responsibilities in consideration of academic promotions.  However, the same leaders act differently in their own academic institutions that are frequently financially strapped due to decrease in NIH and basic science funding.  They do not automatically permit additional time allocation for pregnancy and child-rearing for equivalent academic achievement for academic promotion.  This will remain a significant unyielding contribution to persistence of the women’s leadership gap in the academia (and industry) despite equivalent presence of women in the undergraduate and even graduate science program.

  • Rcrandall

    My sister, a life long college math professor, immediately became upset upon hearing your guest’s comment of ‘small and subtle’ to describe the lower pay, which effects social security and pension, higher insurance, smaller offices and being passed over for promotion in deference to less qualified males, which she has experienced and witness throughout her thirty year professional career in a field dominated by males.

  • JerryS

    Hi Robin- Thanks for the program. My daughter is finishing her doctorate in Astrophysics at Yale having come up through the public school system in San Diego CA (SD Unified) and their GATE program and regulrly involved in Science Fairs throughout. At Yale she has been wonderfully mentored by Meg Urry who is the Head of the Physics  & Astrophyiscs departments and who is someone you might consider contacting to continue to follow up on this ever-so valuable theme. And you might also consider touching base with how these kids (and their parents) weather the storm of growing up a precocious child in a world not really ready for their special capabilities and challenges… Thanks, Jerry Simmons (Dad)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brennan-Moriarty/100000655771831 Brennan Moriarty

    Geography, Passion and indeed Aptitude. Yet without the ultra american-geography of Massachusetts Maryland and or Michigan [google' origins] etc, you’re spliting/disecting the molecular cell with sociological-velocity. That is   ,heros move west ward [esteemed], fed/inspired by the Atlantic domaign of genuinely capitalistic democratic western cultural passion,  male Female cultural security and intellectual fertility. This isn’t exactly the geographic Youth reality in California;   where the Post-Education Google founders Transformed the Idea [like "America's 13 colonies"] that knowledge is a virtue,  into the Scientific Plant [power-Plant] that it now is.  So the scientific-formation/formulation is ultimately the geographic transPlant of optimism that (..in  reverse) seeks the basic innocent G.I.S.  of geographic info or Knowledge to creat the fundamental …atmosphere and geo-ethnomethodology where NURTURE compliments Nature for the complete picture of science and positive aptitude.

  • Diane Baxter

    Great feature. Please share information about the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. The annual US conference is in Portland in November.  It is a fantastic place for young women to meet other computing women and find mentors to help them through this exciting but very male-dominated field. And computing skills are key to solving the problems of our future!

  • http://twitter.com/Rulloff Jamie Bayardelle

    Great job girls!

  • Soliloquy Shambleon

    Hey Robin, 
    You have one of the loveliest voices on radio, both literally and metaphorically speaking.Love your show and was really excited about this segment. Wanted to shout “you go girls”. Would’ve liked to hear from all 3 winners, and about all the projects participants entered to compete. Do you know where I could find this?

    Thanks sincerely,

  • Teresa

    Girls hit gender discrimination at various points in school and career and this tend is not decreasing quickly. The world is not built for us, and the only way to get there is to get enough women in positions to change things and to find men who will ally with us. Until then only the really talented, lucky, or wealthy women will reach their dreams.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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