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It's our Turn: Science is for women, too

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opinion Alexandria, 56308

Alexandria Minnesota 225 7th Ave E
P.O. Box 549
56308

How many females can you name that are famous for their contributions to science or technology? I’ll be impressed if you can name three.

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The sciences are still very male dominated even after years of laws and movements that have given women the rights they need to succeed in their education and careers.

What’s to blame then for the huge gap that remains between men and women in the sciences?

Discrimination plays a role, definitely. There are still some out there who honestly believe women have less aptitude for science than men.

But now that gender discrimination is at its lowest point in history, why aren’t women jumping at the opportunity to contribute to those fields?

Part of it is the lack of female role models.

I remember many occasions throughout elementary, middle and high school where we would have workers from around the community come and talk about their jobs.

Teachers and nurses were almost always female, and engineers and police were almost always male. Our opinions of those jobs were influenced right away by repeatedly seeing certain genders in certain roles.

Another reason women aren’t flocking to the sciences is that the imbalanced ratio of males to females itself is intimidating, even if the discrimination isn’t there.

Many women start degrees in the sciences but don’t complete them, not because they aren’t intelligent enough, but because they feel out of place in an environment consisting mainly of men.

Walking into a science or engineering class and seeing only three other females definitely puts some women off, and I know this is something I might face as a freshman at North Dakota State University (NDSU) this fall.

NDSU is a school known for its science and engineering programs, and 55 percent of the student population is male.

I plan to major in biochemistry and go on to do research. I’ve always loved science; when I was little, I preferred going outside to catch bugs over playing with dolls, and my love of nature and science only grew during school.

Whenever I tell someone what I plan to major in, they look surprised. It’s usually not the doubtful kind of surprise, but surprise nonetheless, and I can’t help but wonder if the reaction would be the same to a boy planning on majoring in biochemistry.

I was very fortunate, especially in high school, to have female teachers with very strong, ambitious personalities, and a male teacher and coach who always encouraged and pushed me to dig deeper in organic chemistry and Knowledge Bowl.

These teachers always backed my plans without hesitation.

If all women could have support like that, I think the gender gaps would decrease, but since that’s not always the case, it’s time for women to step it up.

It’s time to stop waiting for the discrimination to stop or for the gender gap to resolve. It won’t fix itself.

Women have to prove they deserve equality, rather than complain that they don’t get it.

If women want to succeed in male dominated fields, they are going to have to work at it and push through any obstacles in their way because in the end, a dream career in the face of opposition far outweighs a more widely accepted second choice career.

• • •

“It’s Our Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.

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