The Only Woman In The Room Analysis

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Introduction

Women currently hold roughly 25% of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering

and Mathematics) jobs in the United States, despite a roughly equal representation in the

workplace as a whole (Beede 2011). It seems as though our society has accepted the

presence of women in the workplace, on the condition that women only occupy jobs

deemed suitable for their gender. Harvard president Lawrence H. Summers made a

speech in January of 2005, claiming that the reason women are underrepresented in

scientific higher academia was due to innate biological differences. He claimed that

socialization and expectations of women “didn’t explain the differences between the

sciences and mathematics and other fields” (Hemel 2005). Summers colleagues also
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One book, The Only Woman in the Room, focused on not only

the author’s individual experiences within the realm of physics academia, but also on

other individual’s experiences and how they were affected by their mentor’s

encouragement, or lack thereof, as well as familial and peer encouragement (Pollack

2015). Eileen Pollack, author of The Only Woman in the Room, says that her

abandonment of physics and her goal to graduate school was due primarily to a lack of

encouragement on the part of her academic advisor. This lead to an introspective, as well

as external, analysis of why women were so discouraged in science in the first place, and

whether or not men have the same experiences. It is the analysis of these experiences that

will help uncover the true reason for unequal representation of women in STEM, and will

move beyond the flippant argument that attributes this to biological differences.

Inherent Differences

Until the 1990’s, there was a general consensus that the performance of women in

subjects such a math and science was significantly lower than those of men, due

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