Women's Science: Learning and Succeeding from the Margins

Women's Science: Learning and Succeeding from the Margins

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by Margaret A. Eisenhart, Elizabeth Finkel
     
 

Are there any places where women succeed in science? Numerous studies in recent years have documented and lamented a gender gap in science and engineering. From elementary school through college, women's interest in science steadily declines, and as adults, they are less likely to pursue careers in science-related fields.

Women's Science offers a dramatic

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Overview

Are there any places where women succeed in science? Numerous studies in recent years have documented and lamented a gender gap in science and engineering. From elementary school through college, women's interest in science steadily declines, and as adults, they are less likely to pursue careers in science-related fields.

Women's Science offers a dramatic counterpoint not only to these findings but also to the related, narrow assumption that "real science" only occurs in research and laboratory investigation. This book describes women engaged with science or engineering at the margins: an innovative high school genetics class; a school-to-work internship for prospective engineers, an environmental action group, and a nonprofit conservation agency. In these places--where people use or rely on science for public, social, or community purposes--the authors found a remarkably high proportion of women. Moreover, these women were successful at learning and using technical knowledge, they advanced in roughly equal percentages to men, and they generally enjoyed their work.

Yet, even in these more marginal workplaces, women had to pay a price. Working outside traditional laboratories, they enjoy little public prestige and receive significantly less financial compensation. Although most employers claimed to treat men and women equally, women in fact only achieved success when they acted like male professionals.

Women's Science is an original and provocative contribution that expands our conception of scientific practice as it reconfigures both women's role in science and the meaning of science in contemporary society.

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Editorial Reviews

Journal of the American Medical Association
This is a social science study of women's development, a report with persuasive statistical data and a plausible argument that these sites offer some hope for linking women and science. The marginal institutions have scarcely solved the problem of sexism in science, but they offer a complex set of insights into how to do better politically, culturally, and scientifically with the education of women.
Nancy J. Lane
In this fascinating study, Eisenhart and Finkel...present a powerful argument as to why science education should be rethought, particularly with regard to gender equity rather than supposed gender neutrality.
Times Literary Supplement
Library Journal
Although younger boys and girls show comparable math and science skills, in high school there is a dramatic shift in favor of boys. Eisenhart (education/anthropology, Univ. of Colorado, Boulder; Educated in Romance: Women, Achievement, and Campus Culture, LJ 9/1/90) and science writer Finkel looked at four science-based programs--a high school genetics class, an internship program for engineers, an environmental group, and a conservation agency--with high female representation. Even in these unusual programs, women were paid less than men and "only achieved success when they acted like male professionals." Unfortunately, the authors seem to define "acting like male professionals" as working long hours, taking on difficult assignments, and sacrificing other activities in order to accomplish the job. They contend that women tend to select more flexible programs and occupations so that they can fulfill other obligations. Intriguing yet finally depressing, their arguments would have been clearer with a little less jargon. Nevertheless, their book should provide fodder for some interesting arguments.--Hilary Burton, Lawrence Livermore National Lab., Livermore, CA
Booknews
Challenges the prevailing statistics showing that girls progressively lose interest in science as they grow into women, and that few are working in hard science. Profiles women engaged at the margins of science and engineering, finding that in fact women are highly represented where the science is actually being put to public, social, or community use. Among the situations described are an innovative high-school genetics class, a school-to-work internship for prospective engineers, environmental action groups, and a nonprofit conservation agency. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
Margaret G. Nichols
Instead of studying traditional "elite" science settings where women are scarce, such as the research laboratory and the university physics department, Women's Science examines settings where women are relatively abundant. Margaret Eisenhart and Elizabeth Finkel ask what attracts women to areas of science that are generally viewed as marginal, where salaries and prestige are low. What conditions do they find there, and what is the effect of their presence? Originally conducted independently by four individual researchers with varied interests in science and education, the case studies brought together in Women's Science describe four "sites" where women learn science and learn to be "scientists outside the traditional boundaries of the profession.
The Women's Review of Books

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780226195445
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
Publication date:
11/15/1998
Pages:
290
Product dimensions:
6.34(w) x 9.39(h) x 0.85(d)

What People are saying about this

Jan Nespor
[The authors] open up important issues that have been long ignored and challenge us to rethink what we mean by 'science' and 'science education.'
— (Jan Nespor, author of Tangled up in School)

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