“Why women are better at everything” and other semi-related musings

The Times article, “Why women are better at everything” by Meredith Melnick was the lucky winner of the “article-that-caught-my-eye-this-morning” award. Sorry to anyone who is sick of me going on and on about women… but 3 very dedicated years to the Society of Women Engineers [SWE – pronounced “SWeeeeeee”], a full year of running an after-school engineering club where women were hard to come by and a future dedication to the American Medical Women’s Association [AMWA – pronounced “AM-wah”] kind of sets me up for this mindset.

Essentially, the article cites testosterone as the big problem with men… and I couldn’t agree more. While I am in no way complaining about the entire gender, there are definitely times where I feel like it is impossible to work alongside an overly-testosterone-filled male — they tend to be arrogant, annoying and have a one-track mind. Sure, testosterone can be pretty useful [it’s not that I can’t carry my own groceries or luggage… it’s that it is generally easier for men to since increased testosterone levels is correlated with increased muscle mass] [and there was that time when I was all “let’s go the safe route” in my Senior Design project and Mike decided to argue with all his testosterone-filled might to change the course of the project… which was essentially for the best] [oh, and there’s that whole reproduction thing that I hope to take advantage of before I run out of ova…], but I’m just complaining about the times when it gets in the way.

This kind of makes me all excited to learn about the endocrine system… woohoo medical school [I’m sure I’ll regret this statement within the next 2 years…]!

To continue the conversation on women, but veering back down the engineering path… a recent article discussed the sudden influx of women CS-majors at Harvard: “Worried about jobs, college women go ‘geek’” — while this gave me hope that someday more women will fill the EECS building on North Campus, Kyle [my first comment ever buddy, bullpen buddy and also fellow Epeian] did some analysis on the number of women in the EECS department: Female Enrollment in EECS and the results were pretty dismal. While there is a leap in the CS-LSA majors in F08, there really isn’t any evidence that the Hahhr-vard [say it with me] trend is infiltrating other schools [okay, I admit I’m looking at a sample of n=1, but Michigan has one of the largest engineering colleges in the nation so I think it’s an important consideration!].

In a slew of Facebook comments, one particular idea caught my attention: the atmosphere of introductory level programming courses is intimidating to women [many, many CSE students have had prior programming knowledge… and sometimes, a lot of it…]. And I find this to be an extremely reasonable speculation. Although I did not take my introductory-level courses at Michigan, I did take the Introduction to Programming [affectionately known as ENGR101] course and found many of my female classmates quite torn up over trying to work out the code for each of the projects assigned [in fact, I was one of them for the final project…]. Sadly, I overheard many conversations about failing the course or completely switching out of CoE.

Even looking on a larger scale [Female enrollment in CoE], we aren’t seeing an upward trend. In fact, the graph seems to indicate the nationwide trend of a decreasing plateau in female engineering enrollment. As I mentioned in an earlier post, less women are graduating with an engineering degree in the last couple of eyars when compared to 10 years ago. What is going on!?

…maybe it has something to do with our primary/secondary school education.

I somehow failed to mention my love of inspiring young women and men to pursue STEM fields. Regardless, Mike pulled up an article from Annarbor.com discussing the Michigan Merit Exam (MME) results for Washtenaw County… and it wasn’t too bad, I guess. What primarily worries me are the state averages in each subject… particularly, math — only 52% of students scored proficient or advanced! Almost half of the state’s 11th graders are not proficient in mathematics! That’s… truly maddening. It is also pretty disheartening that only 47% of students scored proficient or advanced in writing — a skill required to advance in higher education.

Oh how painful education statistics are. More to come later…