Girls Could Help Fill Science Need (Apr, 1958)

Girls Could Help Fill Science Need

In the hue and cry for more scientists America should look to its gifted girl students, a Michigan State University researcher has indicated.

Girls have shown the same ability as boys to do high-level work of a scientific nature, according to Dr. Elizabeth Monroe Drews, who made a four-year study of gifted adolescents in Lansing. Mich.

In the studies, records of some 3.000 Lansing public school eighth and ninth graders were carefully screened. Finally 150 students with -IQ’s (intelligence quotients) of 130 and above were selected for further testing, Dr. Drews explained.

She said all in the top sample averaged about four years ahead of their class, and in all subject matter areas tested, including mathematics, language skills, reading and critical think- ing, the girls did as well as the boys.

In the pre-Sputnik-era tests, three-fourths of the gifted boys said they planned careers as scientists or engineers. All indicated they planned to graduate from college and two-thirds of them expected to do graduate work.

With the girls it was a different story, Dr. Drews commented. Although the gifted girls averaged about four years ahead of their class and could match the gifted boys in scientific ability, the gifted girls chose occupations which were only only those of the average girl.

“Often, girls do not take the courses to prepare them for scientific careers and there seems to be very little encouragement in our society for them to go on to work in that area,” the MSU researcher remarked.

  1. fluffy says: December 24, 20112:21 pm

    Sadly, 54 years later and we’re STILL in this situation, at least somewhat.

  2. Hirudinea says: December 24, 20113:55 pm

    Really, I’ve heard that now girls are outnumbering boys in sciences in high school.

  3. fluffy says: December 24, 20114:24 pm

    Really? If so, that’s great! Got a source?

  4. Paul says: December 24, 20114:49 pm

    I guess they’d never heard of Marie Curie.

  5. fluffy says: December 24, 20115:08 pm

    The existence of a single prominent female scientist does nothing to disprove anything stated in this article.

  6. Hirudinea says: December 24, 20115:50 pm

    @ Fluffy – Well I remember hearing it a while ago, but a quick google search found this……

  7. fluffy says: December 24, 20116:07 pm

    That’s good. I mean there’s still a pretty big gap in most fields but at least things are a lot better now.

  8. Paul says: December 25, 20118:03 am

    I mention Marie Curie simply because she is the most well known. How about Ada Lovelace (computer languages), Laura Bassi (physics), Eva Crane (apiculture), Annie Cannon (astronomy), Emmy Noether (mathematics), Maria Agnesi (linguistics & mathematics), Gertrude Elion (pharmacology), Sophie Germain (mathematics), Lisa Meitner (nuclear physics), the all-female programmers of ENIAC…the list goes on and on. These are all women who were practicing science before this article was written, centuries before in some cases. Most people today can name prominent male scientists, but almost no-one can name any of the above. The problem is not so much a lack of women working in scientific fields, but more the fact that those who do, not receiving the recognition they deserve.

  9. fluffy says: December 25, 20112:45 pm

    Again, the fact that women scientists existed has no bearing on whether there weren’t that many of them or not. Not to mention that the whole reason that the programmers of ENIAC were women was because at the time, programming was seen as menial.

  10. Toronto says: December 25, 20113:38 pm

    Fluffy: parts of programming still are menial. There’s the problem solving / algorithmic part – that’s fun when it’s over but can be frustrating at the beginning (or when you find yourself up a blind alley.) Then there’s the coding, and, back in the day, the hand assembly or even worse -plug board “programming”.

    Some – and I’m not saying all – of the earlier female computer people worked on translating the intermediate steps into plug boards because their hand/eye coordination was better than men, typically. Others worked on banks of mechanical calculators (the people were called computers) and sometimes came up with new algorithms to shorten their work or make it less repetitive. These ideas were captured in low-level programming to get the most out of early computers.

    Who you call programmers sort of depends on where you draw the line in the problem solving sequence.

    (My mother was a computer.)

  11. fluffy says: December 25, 20113:45 pm


    I’m a software engineer. Even the “menial” parts still require an understanding of what’s been solved and how to go about implementing it. But that is still beside the point. The reason early CS pioneers were women was not because women were seen as equals as men in the sciences.

  12. revpj says: December 25, 20114:35 pm

    My wife and I help with the Michigan Woman In Computing conference, and while the conference itself is amazing I’m always depressed afterwords. I meet all of these young women at the conference and realize that they will be considered less capable that their male classmates who a barely passing. THe reason they’ll be considered less capable is that somehow the idea that women are less capable as computer professionals has phenomenal staying power. One of my best students is a young woman who could have easily gotten a full-ride through graduate school in Computer Science. Instead she has an entry-level job with IBM, which I fear won’t challenge her at all, nor reward her talent or help her develop it. My wife used to work in tech support for Video Fusion and tells me stories of frequently having customers demand she pass them to a male support agent because clearly she couldn’t actually handle the software. Oddly enough, my wife wrote the manuals and all of the support materials for the software and was consequently one of the most knowledgable people in the world on their software.

    Until the presence of women in computing is something that is so common as to be unremarkable, we have a serious problem.

  13. Toronto says: December 25, 20116:14 pm

    It *is* changing. Not only have I worked with women in all positions in IT at one time or another, but the VP of Engineering at the company I work for (>80,000 employees, possibly over 100k by now) is female. It’s not that remarkable in the corporation, which, while it isn’t close to having a 50/50 balance between the sexes in the executive ranks, is closing in on it over time.

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