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How can we inspire young women to pursue careers in science?

Annabelle Pratt


Posted: Sep 14, 2011

Annabelle Pratt, Senior Power Research Engineer at Intel Labs, reveals how she believes we can inspire young women to pursue careers in science in this Discovery Channel video.


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Getting a woman POTUS elected might help, even if she might turn out to be Michelle Bachmann or Sarah Palin. Neither of them appear to be Luddites.
The Heartland is more 'conservative' (old fashioned) than one might think it is so we might have to compromise our principles in gaining a female president/veep (politics are anachronistic yet we are stuck with it for the duration. It is called the Politics of Nostalgia; one reason for it is not difficult to comprehend: people are sentimental for a time in which they were younger).

Getting young women excited and involved with science and technology is easy - Just get them involved with a FIRST Robotics team - at the Lego League level in elementary and middle school, and the full Robotics Competition in high school.

There are thousands of examples of women who got excited by FIRST Robotics and ended up in engineering careers, and dozens of teams that are all girls. The Girl Scouts and 4H have even become involved in FIRST.

Getting a woman President won't do 1/2 as much as spending time mentoring young women and showing them that an engineering career path is both exciting and possible. And if we have to have that woman president be Bachmann or Palin, someone save us. Bachmann is a creation "science" advocate. Yet you say she's not a luddite? Please.

"Getting a woman President won't do 1/2 as much"

Even if getting a woman president does 1/4, then so be it.

I have to ask the obvious, politically incorrect question:


Economists emphasize that society tends to benefit when people organically segregate and specialize in the roles which best suit them in current circumstances. It produces less optimal outcomes when we try to force people into roles against their inclinations, based on ideological considerations instead of an understanding of human nature. Even if some women have the goods to work in the STEM fields, a lot of them don't want to, and I respect that fact. You might as well make it a political goal to encourage more gays and lesbians to become heterosexual based your religious beliefs about human sexuality.

"Economists emphasize"

Place a group of economists in a room and what do you get:
Economics is no science.

I think the answer is the same regardless of what specifically we are trying to inspire women to do:

Empower them to do it. Equalize pay in those fields. Make it accessible. Make it socially acceptable.

But how? Maybe we merely need to promote the idea of women as bread winners, men as domestic partners. Then, perhaps, women would simply fill whatever niche were available, as men did before.

I don't know. In America, I think it's going to get darker before it get's lighter. I'd like to believe otherwise, but I don't think people here suffer enough yet to really get angry enough to demand change in any of our institutions. I wish it were otherwise.

"In America, I think it's going to get darker before it get's lighter."

To answer a previous comment by Lee, merely because Palin and Bachmann are old-fashioned, doesn't mean they are luddites; Creationism, as one might add, is just a tradition, a game in certain religionist red state areas. Palin and Bachmann have plenty of gadgets, they are not treehuggers living in the forest; they are not anti-tech. When it comes to DARPA they are not at all luddites. They are cornballs, not luddites.
I don't necessarily want to vote for them, however they are controlled by men, they have to go along to get along. What could they do about it at this time if they were inclined to do anything to begin with? Not much.

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