|BEGINNINGS IN A UNIVERSITY SETTING
For nearly 50 years, Madison-area educators and community members have sponsored events designed to support and encourage young women’s interest in math and science.
- In 1959, the UW-Madison chapter of Sigma Delta Epsilon – Graduate Women in Science held the first one-day workshop that brought together high school students and scientists for career-related discussions and activities.
- In 1981, the career day planning committee joined the Math/Science Network, a national, non-profit organization that promotes the education and professional advancement of girls and women in math, science, and technology.
Among its endeavors, the Math/Science Network supports Expanding Your Horizons (EYH) in Science and Math conferences for 6th through 12th grade girls nationwide. Members receive materials and technical assistance from the Network. Local affiliation with the national EYH effort has helped enhance the Madison conference with informative materials and innovative programming.
Are EYH conferences still needed in the 21st century?
YES! Although more women enter traditionally male-dominated occupations and have better opportunities than ever before, women are still underrepresented in many math/science fields. The Math/Science Network reports that by next year:
- Two out of three new entrants to the labor force will be women
- Women currently only comprise 16% of the science and engineering workforce
- Even though women earn over one-half of all bachelor’s degrees awarded, only one-fourth of those are in natural science and engineering.
Specifically, women earn only 17.5 percent of undergraduate engineering degrees, and only 18 percent of physics degrees; and although women earned 37 percent of undergraduate computer science degrees in 1985, they earned only 29 percent in 1994.
According to the Math/Science Network, news at the pre-college levels is also disturbing. For instance, half the girls in grades 5 through 8 say they will take only those math courses required to graduate from their public schools. In addition, 30 percent of high school girls report they have been advised against taking senior-level math.
Granted, there are no easy explanations for statistical trends. Nevertheless, we believe that young women need encouragement to study math and science so they can keep their options open. Our nation’s future depends on a diverse workforce with high-level math, science, and technical abilities. By providing information, role models, activities, and first-hand experiences in the workplace, EYH helps young women identify the rewarding career options open to them if they keep their math and science interests alive.