Friday, November 14, 2014

What We've Been Reading 11/14

“Codeathon Winner Makes Safety Alert System for Jawbone Health Tracker”
This article in the Boston Business Journal recaps the events of the Clinton Foundation’s Women’s Health Codeathon series. These events not only serve to emphasize women’s health issues, it also provides a platform for female programmers in a male-dominated field. The winning program is called, which uses the fitness tracker Jawbone to send out alerts to emergency contacts. While the purpose to program this app was the prevalence of sexual violence across college campuses, its aim is to increase bystander intervention. While the programmers have only created a prototype, the app is definitely taking a modern approach to persisting societal issues. 

“Pregnant, and No Civil Rights”

This opinion piece in the New York Times argues how the abortion debate has resulted in the loss of fundamental rights for many pregnant women. The author cites anti-abortion laws that are being used as a basis to arrest women and prevent them from making choices about how they will give birth. For instance, women have been arrested in Iowa, Utah, and Louisiana for “attempted fetal homicide.” In one instance, a pregnant woman had fallen down the stairs, and after seeking medical help, she was arrested by the police. Other women have undergone forced caesarians, some of which have resulted in the deaths of both the mother and child. This is an alarming phenomenon especially due to the rise of laws suppressing abortion rights. For this reason, the argues that we need to start focusing on the loss of women’s civil and human rights as an issue rather than abortion.

‘Blame-The-Victim’ Culture May Discourage Female Vets From Seeking Help For Trauma
This article in in the Huffington Post seeks to draw increased public attention to sexual assault in the military and hardships female vets undergo due to the prevalence of ‘blame-the-victim’ culture in the military. A survey estimated around 26,000 cases of sexual assaults with only around 4,000 being reported. Women are hesitant to seek help for trauma since they feel they do not “deserve to have help.” These are women who have valiantly served their country but are stigmatized, discouraging them from seeking help. The author argues that the military needs to create a more welcoming environment at hospitals. Currently, most Veteran Affairs hospitals are male-dominated and this may add to the discomfort the women feel.

Why so few women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics?

The number of women in science and engineering is increasing, yet men continue to outnumber women, especially at the upper levels of these professions. In elementary, middle, and high school, girls and boys take math and science courses in roughly equal numbers, and about as many girls as boys leave high school prepared to pursue science and engineering majors in college. However, fewer women than men pursue these majors. Among first-year college students, women are much less likely than men to say that they intend to major in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM). By graduation, men outnumber women in nearly every science and engineering field, and in some, such as physics, engineering, and computer science, the difference is dramatic, with women earning only 20 percent of bachelor’s degrees. Women’s representation in science and engineering declines further at the graduate level and yet again in the transition to the workplace.

Social and environmental factors contribute to the underrepresentation of women in science and engineering. The rapid increase in the number of girls achieving very high scores on mathematics tests once thought to measure innate ability suggests that cultural factors are at work. Thirty years ago there were 13 boys for every girl who scored above 700 on the SAT math exam at age 13; today that ratio has dropped to about 3:1. This increase in the number of girls identified as “mathematically gifted” suggests that education can and does make a difference at the highest levels of mathematical achievement. While biological gender differences may play a role, they clearly do not provide sufficient evidence and explanations for the gap between men and women in STEM. As mentioned before, there are numerous external factors, such as social and environmental, that impact the number of women in science and engineering. Firstly, the environment around girls shapes their achievements and interest in math and science. For example, when girls are told that by teachers and parents that their intelligence can expand with experience and learning, girls do better on math tests and are more likely to say they want to continue to study math in the future. Secondly, at colleges and universities, little changes can make a big difference in attracting and maintaining women in STEM. For instance, providing a broader overview of the field in introductory courses, can add up to big gains in female student recruitment and retention. The same goes for improving departmental culture to promote the integration of female faculty. Last but not least, bias, often unconscious, limits women’s progress in scientific and engineering fields. This bias not only affects individuals’ attitudes toward others but may also impact girls’ and women’s likelihood of cultivating their own interest in math and science.

To conclude, women can be as successful as men in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. We should not hinder them from showing their skills and capabilities but rather encourage them to explore their talents in whatever area of study they wish.