Move over, men: more women aim for math, science careers

The gap between males and females pursuing science and mathematics careers is slowly closing.

According to a Dec. 31 article published in Newsday of Long Island, the gap is shrinking in part because of girls' increased involvement in high school math and science classes.

"A reason that girls' math scores have gone up faster than boys' is that more girls are taking more challenging math courses," said Brian O'Reilly, executive director of SAT program relations for the College Board.

The trend carries over into colleges as well, where according to the Newsday article women greatly outnumber men in general enrollment. This is good news for Geneseo's thriving science departments.

The American Institute of Physics' most recent report stated that the number of degrees held by women has seen a decrease in the past few years, but is increasing overall.

"Twenty-one percent of bachelor's degrees [nationally] in physics were women," said Kurt Fletcher, professor and chair of the physics and astronomy department. "This percentage has increased over the past two decades, but still has a long way to go. We need to continue to look for ways to encourage women to major in physics."

Fletcher explained that the national average is also reflected at Geneseo.

"Our female-to-male ratio varies a great deal from year-to-year, but when we pool data from several years the percentage is generally similar to the national average," he said.

The mathematics department in Geneseo has seen a proportionally significant number of female graduates in recent years.

"I am happy to report that women in the field of mathematics are in very good standing," said secretary of the math department Terry Holbrook.

Last May, 31 of 53 math graduates were female.

Holbrook said of the seven awards given for excellence in math, four were given to women.

Career options for science and math are becoming more readily available to women as the gap closes.

"[Women] have lots of choices, so why [should they] do something that just doesn't seem interesting or pleasant?" Hofstra University associate professor of engineering Margaret Hunter said in the Newsday article.

Freshman math major Colleen Grodotzke explained that she doesn't want her gender to prevent her from doing what she likes.

"I wanted to be a math major because it comes naturally to me," she said. "It's definitely my best subject, and I don't think my gender will affect my opportunities in the future. The most qualified person should get the job. That's the way I think it will be and the way it should be."

Geneseo seems to be maintaining a balanced ratio of males and females in math and science classes, which allows for female involvement.

"I'd say most of my classes have about a 50-50 ratio," said freshman biology major Katie Liljeberg. "They aren't overwhelmingly one way or the other. It's nice to know that gender isn't a factor here."