[EDEQUITY DIALOG] Opening Statement by Gay Gordon

From: Gay Gordon (ggordon@enc.org)
Date: Mon Nov 13 2000 - 15:17:04 EST

The topic for last year's panel included two questions, "Women and Girls in
Science - Who are They? Where are They?" As moderator of that panel, I
noted that the answer to the questions can often be found in the K-12
classroom. Girls' science experience in school appears to make a difference
in whether they continue their science education. A number of studies have
shown that girls are treated differently by their teachers, that they take
fewer advanced math and science courses, that they encounter a number of
cultural biases, and that engaging them early on in science can make a
difference in their interest and enthusiasm for the subject

As the Associate Director for Publishing for the Eisenhower National
Clearinghouse for Mathematics and Science Education (ENC), my primary
concern is with K-12 education. ENC is a contract with the US Department of
Education at Ohio State University. We collect K-12 math and science
curriculum resources and make information about those resources available
to teachers and other educators across the country. We strive to improve
math and science teaching and learning through the information we provide
and the products we produce, several of which target equity in the math and
science classroom. I am always looking for stories we can use that
demonstrate how educators can nurture girls' continuing involvement in
science. In fact, our most recent Focus magazine featured a story by one of
the other panelists, Cerise Roth-Vinson, about the Cybersisters mentoring

Last year's discussion focused on several important education issues,
including the criticality of the middle school years for girls in terms of
postsecondary study, the value of single-sex classes, the need for role
models, and the dilemma of sustainability, primarily how to keep good
programs going. This year's discussion could and should continue with any
of these threads. What more do we know this year? What can we add? What
examples can we give?

We also asked an important question last year. Why do we assume that a
woman is lost to science if she does not pursue further education and a
career as soon as she graduates from high school? Why not encourage women
to "contribute in their own time frame," as Londa Schiebinger suggested.
Lately, I have read of a number of examples of women who have returned to
school after their children left home to become medical doctors. I'm sure
that there are women have also pursued science education and careers in
their own time frame, and it would be interesting to hear from them.

I think one of the most compelling ideas that emerged last year came from
some of the international panelists and participants. They suggested that
if there were more women scientists, science itself would be different,
because women in decision-making positions would choose different research
priorities. Women might focus more on human needs and service to people,
rather than on "pure" science or on science motivated by military or profit
priorities. How would this affect science education and our perception of
science in general?

With these thoughts and questions in mind, I look forward to joining the
other panelists in a stimulating week of discussions around the topic of
Women and Girls in Science. Please join us with your ideas, your examples,
your questions, and your reflections.

Gay Gordon

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