Gender Equity in Science Education

One of the clearest signs of a society’s intellectual health is the strength of its science and math education. Science and math help to spur developments in scientific research and industrial technology, and ultimately lead to a more diverse, robust economy. But in the United States, and even in countries where a greater emphasis is placed on math and science, there is one segment of the population that does not always benefit from the best science and math education the community has to offer: girls and women. It has long been known that there is a “gender gap” in the sciences, which affects the quality and type of education offered to women even up to the advanced college level.

Evidence of a Science Gender Gap

Evidence of a science gender gap has been provided by research evaluating the population of professionals in the academic fields of science and engineering, as well as surveys and polls focusing on students’ perceptions of these subjects. Research has generally supported the conclusion that there are no biological, neurological, or genetic factors at work in the creation of scientific gender disparity. Rather, a combination of elements combine to make it more difficult for women to train for and maintain a high-achieving scientific career. These factors include social stigma of the sciences as “masculine”, institutional bias in the scientific community, and pressures related to starting a family.

Women, Science, and the Gender Gap: News article from The Boston Globe discussing research into the issue of gender inequality in the sciences.

Bibliography of Books Related to Gender Equity in Math and Science: Resource list compiled by NASA, showcasing books that discuss the evidence of a science gender gap and possible methods of dealing with the gap.

Gender Inequality in Science: Scholarly essay discussing conclusions about gender inequality in scientific research from a meeting of Eurodoc, the European council of doctoral candidates.

Race and Gender Inequality in Science Education: Academic paper from the University of Mississippi exploring the evidence and impact of scientific gender bias.

An Educator’s Guide to Gender Bias Issues: Detailed overview of gender bias as it appears in a variety of contexts related to education, science, Internet technology and more.

The Impact Of Gender Inequality in Education

Gender inequality in education has a variety of negative consequences for the women affected and for the scientific community at large. At the most basic level, the gender gap threatens to turn research science into a “closed club” where consensus thinking and the absence of new perspectives may hinder advances. Women who lack the opportunity to discover their scientific aptitudes may end up in careers to which they are less suited, and even female students with no scientific aspirations might suffer without the rounded educational experience granted to their male peers. On a larger level, excluding women from science in the classroom sets the stage for a huge decline in scientific literacy for the whole society. This makes the public less savvy consumers of scientific information, and more likely to be exploited, deceived, or simply confused by pseudo-scientific claims.

Gender Equity in Science and Technology: Does It Matter?: Keynote presentation of the Conference on Gender, Science and Technology of October, 2000. Presented as a service of the United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development.

Benefits of Gender Equity: Explores the importance of gender equality in the collegiate setting from a variety of perspectives. From the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

Best Practices for Achieving Gender Equity in the Classroom: Measure-by-measure information on crafting effective, gender inclusive classroom environments. From Equity Initiatives for Science and Mathematics at Rice University.

Women in Math, Science, and Engineering: Range of resources from the “living-learning” community at FSU devoted to supporting female students’ success in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

On-Line Gender Equity Resources: Large index of Internet sites pertaining to classroom gender equality initiatives at a variety of universities.

How to Attain Gender Equity in Science Classroom

Though the problem of science disparity may be said to have its most profound effects on students at the university level, addressing the issue requires a mix of approaches at every stage of education. Younger students must be introduced to the subjects of math and science in a way that makes it clear that they can, and should, strive to attain excellence. In high school, a greater range of scientific electives, along with a broader range of related requirements for all students and higher availability of after-school tutoring, will help to eliminate the stigma of math and science as being too difficult or irrelevant. At the college level, a well-crafted curriculum with emphasis on the scientific components of a general education will help students of all backgrounds to explore their interests in the scientific world at the stage of life most likely to kindle a new career.

Gender Equity in Science Education: Position statement from the National Science Teachers Association supporting gender equality in the classroom. Website offers a variety of publications and other informative content.

Ensuring Equity and Excellence in Mathematics: Overview of gender equality issues in the classroom, including in-depth articles on a vast selection of “action options” for ensuring gender equity.

American Association of University Women: Offers advocacy, education, and research related to ensuring gender equality throughout the university environment and in the professional world.

Women’s Equity Resource Center: Large amount of archived information from the Women’s Educational Equity Act (WEEA) Equity Resource Center. Part of the Educational Development Center, a global nonprofit organization based in Boston.

Women in Science: Norway: Website devoted to efforts to improve gender equity in research science and showcase the contributions of women in the laboratory sciences.