By Dennis Hines The number of women entering the science profession is increasing; however, more work needs to be done to encourage more women to enter the field. Lesley Rigg, Northern Illinois University associate geography professor, discussed the issue during a recent brown bag luncheon program. Rigg said women who enter the science profession need to have equal opportunities as their male counterparts. “We do have great opportunities today that we didn't have in the past, but the opportunities aren't formulated as they are for men,” Rigg said. “There is a bit of a double standard. A lot of women live a double life as being a scientist and being a mom and taking care of a house.” Rigg said, according to a recent study, most universities do not promote female science professors to tenured positions. She said only 30 percent of women who obtain their Ph.D degree become tenured professors. She said most female professors become adjunct professors or instructors. “There are few women who come to a university wanting to be a scientist,” Rigg said. “They walk away before they receive their master's degree. More walk away before they get their Ph.d. Most of the people who go on to be a full professor at a research teaching institute are not women.” Rigg said many universities do not offer day care programs, which also prevents some female professors from advancing in their career. “We are lucky here at NIU. We have a fabulous day care facility,” Rigg said. “We are quite lucky at NIU, but not all schools are the same.” Rigg said it is important to promote women science professors to tenured positions to encourage more female students to enter the field. “If you are a young women going into the sciences and you never had a female professor, those role models are hard to come by,” Rigg said. “That's not to say men can't be role models, but it's much harder for women to see themselves in a position if there isn't at least one woman there to mentor them.” Rigg said several female college students do not view themselves as becoming scientists. She said, during one of her classes, she asked the students to describe what they feel a scientist should look like. She said most of the students described a scientist as an older, white male. Rigg said 35 out of the 50 students in the class were women. “Half of them are science majors, yet they still don't see themselves as scientists,” Rigg said. “When they hear scientist, they picture some guy with bubbly test tubes.” Rigg said, from kindergarten to high school, female students generally score higher in their classes than males; however, their scores on standardized tests in math and science are usually about 3 percent lower than male students, which may discourage them from studying math and science in college. “At 17, that is when girls and boys go to college, so it really does affect the courses that they choose,” Rigg said. “It's really hard to convince girls at 17, 18 and 19 that math and science is something that they can do.” According to Rigg, there are still some stereotypes about women entering the science field. She said, in 1994, a talking Barbie doll was manufactured, and when the doll's string was pulled it said such phrases as “I love shopping” and “Math is hard.” “The Barbie doll was pulled off the shelves,” Rigg said. “What it did do was start huge amounts of research on girls in education at very young ages.” Rigg said, according to a 2004 study, more female college students are beginning to study various areas of science such as biology, chemistry and engineering. “Chemistry isn't even considered, anymore, a non-traditional occupation for women, and that has a lot to do, I think, with all the intriguing fields that women are getting into,” she said. However, less women are entering other fields of science such as environmental science and geoscience. Rigg said geoscientist recently was listed as a non-tradition occupation for women. “What this means is that women represent less than 25 percent of the working women in geosciences, so that's kind of sad,” Rigg said.
Women in science Many women have played an important role in the field of science during the past 4,000 years. * Enheduanna- lived about 4,000 years ago. She was considered the high priestess for the moon god Nanna. Enheduanna wrote various hymns to the goddess Inanna. * Maria Agnese (1718-1799) developed a solution for an algebraic equation, which is still used in current textbooks. * Beatrix Potter (1866-1943) drew and described various plants. She was one of the first scientists to propose that lichens are living organisms. She also determined that algae and fungus are a part of the same family. Potter's work was not recognized by members of the Royal Botanical Gardens. Potter also wrote several children's books and was able to speak various languages. * Rosalind Franklin (1920-1957) studied X-rays and took X-ray photographs of the structure of DNA. Franklin received a degree in chemistry from Cambridge University in 1951. * Hedy Lamarr is mostly known as the first women to appear nude in a movie; however she also worked with piano composer George Antheil to patent the “Secret Communication Device,” which was set to be used to block signals from radio-controlled missiles and to change radio frequencies to prevent enemies from detecting messages during World War II. However, the technology for the patent was not available at the time. Lamarr's ideas were used to develop several types of technology such as cellular telephones. * Michelle Nichols is mostly known for starring in the television program “Star Trek.” She is famous for being involved in the first interracial kiss on television. Nichols also worked for NASA helping to recruit astronauts. * Mae Jemison was the first African-American female in space. She no longer works for NASA and is currently the head of a corporation. For more information about women in science log on to http://www.astr.ua.edu.