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Friday, July 21, 2006

Female science nerds

Even before I read this recent, slightly weird NYT article, I had been thinking about the topic of "Women in Science." And not just because King James really wants to meet some girls. When I first arrived, I was surprised to find that my lab is ~50% women (here's a large portion of my lab, visiting the Buddhist temple at Guinsa near Danyang):

Needless to say, quite a shock coming from CIT. But it's not just my lab; at the retreat in Danyang and in the other labs that I've visited, there are a lot of women here who are studying science. In fact, during my brief observation, Korea seems to be doing a much better job than America of keeping women in science (KAIST notwithstanding).

And this is all despite the general preference for male children (although I fail to see why "carrying on the family name" is so important in a culture where everyone is named either Kim, Park, or Lee!). Several girls have even mentioned that their parents openly favor their younger male siblings, simply because they're male.

But then this article got me thinking: I haven't met a single female professor. Not one! Perhaps women in Korea have only recently started studying science, and it's only a matter of time before they infiltrate the ranks of professors? Or is there some subtle sexism going on here, where women's careers are irrevocably interrupted by kids, because they don't have adequate support for childcare and whatnot?

I certainly don't know. Just wondering...

Thankfully, however, a Korean friend told me that Electrical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering are almost exclusively male, even in Korea. Some things are universal, I guess.


  • Take into consideration as well that more women than men are going to college, and from waht I understand that has been the trend for many years. And yet, what is the percentage of female professors in colleges and universities? Why aren't the percentages remaining the same? Why are women deciding (or simply not going) to go into graduate studies?

    Family and marriage has a part to play, and the rub is that both of those factors matter for men as well. But who is more likely to give up their career for family and marriage? It is a frustrating and confusing trend and I think it does point to a kind of subtle sexism, especially coupled with glasss ceilings, and waht I think is still a trend in dissuading women from the sciences in general.

    By Blogger Zeek, at 3:20 PM  

  • The trend may be more pronounced in science, but I think it's prevalent in other fields as well. After all, how many women are CEO's? And how many of those women CEO's have families?

    And that's the shame of it - why spend a society's resources educating women (to the advanced level of masters and doctoral degrees, no less), if society then doesn't allow them to capitalize on that education without sacrificing a family??

    By Blogger swimmerpie3331, at 8:25 PM  

  • I can confirm that there are very few women in Electrical Engineering... anywhere. :-(

    By Anonymous Eric, at 4:42 AM  

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