When 1992 rolled around I was in grad school, working on my second degree in Biological and Agricultural Engineering. Silly me. Didn’t I know that math was too hard for girls? In July of that year, Teen Talk Barbie was telling little fashion-conscious girls that ‘Math class is tough.’
So is putting on a tight, sequined top after you’ve applied your lipstick.
Coming through undergrad, I was only one of a handful of girls in class and many times the only black person. I will never forget the day a well-known mechanical engineering instructor looked me in the eye and told me to leave the college of engineering. That’s what tough is.
As a woman engineer teaching intro to engineering, I look around and see one or two young female students in a class full of males. ‘Why don’t girls like math?,’ the college administrators ask us women engineering faculty.
My [tongue-in-cheek] response: Duh! Barbie said it was tough. Barbie always has the best fashion sense and her accessories are out of this world. She’s always right.
I’m glad Barbie wasn’t around when young Grace Hopper was learning to love math. Little Miss Hopper, who passed away in 1992, became Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper. Grace was the only woman on the team that programmed the Harvard Mark 1 computer. In 1952, she helped develop COBOL, a computer language still in use today (60 years later!).
Maybe making math books pink would help make math more appealing to girls? (Don’t worry, I’m just kidding.)
For more information on women in science and math, visit About.com. Happy Women’s History Month.
*Source: National Science Foundation, 2006