August 26, 2011

Girls and Science

This camp is encouraging young women to pursue a career in science.

Shelby: Summer camp. It is an outdoor playground for fun, for making new friends. It is all part of the food chain…and for science?

Camper: I am analyzing hair underneath the microscope.

Shelby: These eighth-grade girls got a unique experience over the summer at Tech Trek camp. It is one part summer camp, one part science fair.

Camper: I’m actually good at science, and just as good as anyone else.

Shelby: Alex might be confident in her talents, but she faces a challenge. There is still a culture around that math is hard and girls don’t do math well. In fact, a few years ago, the former president of Harvard University raised the question, is there a genetic reason men outnumbered women in science classes and laboratories? The answer is no. There is no research to support the idea that men and women are anything but equal when it comes to understanding math and science.

And now there are signs of change that women are closing the gap, like at the Google Science Fair this summer.

Announcer: Now, we’d like to award the top winners in each age group.

Shelby: The top three winners were all girls.

Announcer: And now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for. The announcement of our grand prize winner! Shree Bose!

Shelby: Texas high school junior Shree Bose won the grand prize for research on defeating drug resistent cancer cells.

Shree Bose: Right now in my mind, it’s a mixture of disbelief, excitement and shock. This is so incredible! I can’t believe this has happened. It’s the biggest opportunity of my life.

Shelby: Today, an almost equal number of boys and girls are taking science courses in high school. But as high school girls grow into college women, there is a shift. Women are awarded only 20% of Bachelor degrees in science and engineering. Fewer still go onto graduate school. And after that? Even fewer actually work in those fields. That is where Tech Trek comes in. The camp brings in women who are VIPs in science and math.

“I work at pixar.”

“I’m doing my Master’s in public health.”

“I’m a geologist.”

Shelby: They are experts in their fields, and they mentor the campers.

“When I was at Harvard taking all my computer science classes, it was 5 to 10%  girls, and it was really difficult. It should be easier for us to go farther and farther and farther.”

Shelby: The summer science camp experiment does seem to be succeeding. A survey of the first five years of campers found almost all went to college. And 54% majored in science or math.

Shelby Holliday, Channel One News.


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