Participation of Women in Science and Engineering Fields

Female Share of Science & Engineering Postdoctoral Fellows

By Field in 1996 and 2006

SOURCE: National Science Foundation, Division of Science Resources Statistics, Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering, 1996 and 2006.
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Additional Graphs

There are two other graphs which represent the number of women receiving degrees in the fields of math and science.

The first is from the a report done by the U.S Department of Education entitled "Encouraging Girls in Math and Science", an Institute of Education Science Practice Guide published in September 2007:

Graph of Percent of Women Receiving Degrees in Major Fields from 1966-2004

Page 11 Graph

The second graph is from the Association of Women in Science (AWIS) in a report entitled "Graduate Education of Women in STEM Disciplines at U.S. Universities"

Graph of Proportion of Women Receiving PhDs in STEM Fields through 2006

Page 8 Graph

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History of Women in Mathematics and Science

Sonya Kovalevskaya

It is impossible to be a mathematician
without being a poet in soul.
- Sonya Kovalevskaya

Ten Female Mathematicians Before The 20th Century

Mathematics as a field of science or philosophy was largely closed to women before the twentieth century. However, from ancient times through the nineteenth century and into the early twentieth century, a few women have achieved notably in mathematics. Here are ten women of note in early math -- their life stories and their achievements.

1. Theano (6th Century B.C.)
Greek - She was the wife of Pythagoras. She wrote treatises on mathematics, physics, medicine, and child psychology. Her most important work was on the principle of the "Golden Mean". More Info
2. Hypatia of Alexandria(355 or 370 - 415)
Greek - philosopher, astronomer, mathematician - She was the salaried head of the Neoplatonic School in Alexandria, Egypt, from the year 400. Her students were pagan and Christian young men from around the empire. She was killed by a mob of Christians in 415, probably inflamed by the bishop of Alexandria, Cyril.More Info
3. Elena Cornaro Piscopia(1646-1684)
Italian (Venice) - mathematician, theologian - She was a child prodigy who studied many languages, composed music, sang and played many instruments, and learned philosophy, mathematics and theology. Her doctorate, a first, was from the University of Padua, where she studied theology. She became a lecturer there in mathematics.More Info
4. Emilie du Chatelet (1706-1749)
Her book Institutions de Physique (“Lessons in Physics”) appeared in 1740; it was presented as a review of new ideas in science and philosophy to be studied by her thirteen-year-old son, but it incorporated and sought to reconcile complex ideas from the leading thinkers of the time. Her crowning achievement is considered to be her translation and commentary on Isaac Newton's work Principia Mathematica; published in 1759, ten years after her death, and is still the standard translation in French. More Info
5. Maria Agnesi(1718-1799)
Italian (Milan) - mathematician - Oldest of 21 children and a child prodigy who studied languages and math, she wrote a textbook to explain math to her brothers which became a noted textbook on mathematics. She was the first woman appointed a university professor of mathematics, though there's doubt she took up the chair.More Info
6. Sophie Germain(1776-1830)
French - mathematician - She studied geometry to escape boredom during the French Revolution when she was confined to her family's home, and went on to do important work in mathematics, especially her work on Fermat's Last Theorem.More Info
7. Mary Fairfax Somerville(1780-1872)
Scottish and British - mathematician - known as the "Queen of Nineteenth Century Science," she fought family opposition to her study of math, and not only produced her own writings on theoretical and mathematical science, she produced the first geography text in England.More Info
8. Ada Lovelace (Augusta Byron, Countess of Lovelace)(1815-1852)
British - mathematician - The only legitimate daughter of Byron, the poet, her translation of an article on Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine includes notations (three-fourths of the translation!) that describe what later became known as a computer and as software. In 1980, the Ada computer language was named for her.More Info
9. Sofia Kovalevskaya(1850-1891)
Russian - mathematician - She escaped her parents' opposition to her advanced study by a marriage of convenience, moving from Russia to Germany and, eventually, to Sweden, where her research in mathematics included the Koalevskaya Top and the Cauchy-Kovalevskaya Theorem.More Info
10. Florence Nightingale (1820-1912)
She is most remembered as a pioneer of nursing and a reformer of hospital sanitation methods. She was known as a true pioneer in the graphical representation of statistics and is credited with developing a form of a pie chart now known as the polar area diagram or occasionally the Nightingale rose diagram, equivalent to a modern circular histogram to illustrate seasonal sources of patient mortality in the military field hospital she managed. More Info

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Marie Curie in her lab in 1912

"I have a great deal of work, what with the housekeeping, the children,
the teaching and the laboratory, and I don't know how I shall manage it all.
- Marie Curie in a letter to her brother Jozef

Ten Female Mathematicians In The 20th Century

1. Marie Curie (November 7, 1867 - July 4, 1934)
She was the first person honored with two Nobel Prizes - one in Chemistry and one in Physics (shared with her husband). Her achievements include the creation of a theory of radioactivity (a term she coined), techniques for isolating radioactive isotopes, and the discovery of two new elements, polonium and radium. Under her direction, the world's first studies were conducted into the treatment of neoplasms (cancers) using radioactive isotopes. More Info
2. Charlotte Angas Scott(1848-1931)
English, American - mathematician, educator - Raised in a supportive family that encouraged her education, Charlotte Angas Scott became the first head of the math department at Bryn Mawr College. Her work to standardize testing for college entrance resulted in the formation of the College Entrance Examination Board.More Info
3. Amalie Emmy Noether (March 23, 1882 – April 14, 1935)
Considered by Einstein to be most important woman in history of mathematics, Emmy (as she generally went by) was an early twentieth century German mathematician with a passion for such areas as theoretical physics and abstract algebra. Noether was both an accomplished university professor and a prolific writer of mathematical papers, as well as someone with a profound ability to grasp abstract thought. As the Nazi stronghold grew in Germany during the 1930s, Emmy found herself, like so many other Jewish professors, barred from teaching. Towards the end of 1933, Noether was able to escape Germany and take up a position at the American college of Bryn Mawr. However, sadly, two years later Emmy’s life was cut short when she died just days after undergoing surgery. To this day Noether’s many contributions towards mathematics and theoretical physics are highly revered, and many remain relevant to the math of the twenty-first century. More Info
4. Alicia Stott(1860-1940)
English - mathematician - She translated Platonic and Archimedean solids into higher dimensions, taking years at a time away from her career to be a homemaker.More Info
5. Grace Chisholm Young (March 15, 1868 - March 29, 1944)
At the age of 27, she was the first woman to officially receive a PhD in Germany. She married William Henry Young, a mathematician, and together they worked in the areas of the topology of the real line and plane, measure theory and integration, Fourier series, and the foundations of differential calculus. More Info
6. Euphemia Lofton Haynes (1890 - July 25, 1980)
In 1943, she became the first African-American woman to earn a PhD in mathematics (at Catholic University). More Info
7. Julia Hall Bowman Robinson (December 8, 1919 – July 30, 1985)
An American mathematician who was born in St. Louis, Robinson is known for her work regarding Hilbert’s tenth problem and the field of decision problems. Though plagued by health problems for most of her life, Julia didn’t let this stand in the way of her love of math and the pursuit of knowledge. She taught as a professor at Berkley and was the first female mathematician to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences. An historical first in her career included becoming president of the American Mathematical Society. She would also go on to become elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in the mid 1980s, just a few short years before she passed away from leukemia.More Info
8. Grace Murray Hopper (December 9, 1906 - January 1, 1992)
She was an American computer scientist and United States Naval officer. A pioneer in the field, she was one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark 1 computer, and she developed the first compiler for a computer programming language. She conceptualized the idea of machine-independent programming languages, which led to the development of COBOL, one of the first modern programming languages. She is also credited with popularizing the term "debugging" for fixing computer glitches (motivated by an actual moth removed from the computer). Because of the breadth of her accomplishments and her naval rank, she is sometimes referred to as "Amazing Grace". The U.S. Navy destroyer USS Hopper was named for her. More Info
9. Dame Mary Lucy Cartwright (December 17, 1900 – April 3, 1998)
An accomplished British mathematician, Cartwright led a long and distinguished career that focused on function theory. In her lifetime, Mary published in excess of 100 papers and was the first female mathematician to be elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of England; a theorem regarding analytical function that she put forth, Cartwright’s theorem, shares her name. Cartwright received numerous awards and recognitions throughout her life including, the De Morgan Medal of the London Mathematical Society and the Sylvester Medal of the Royal Society. More Info
10. Shirley Ann Jackson (1946 - )
In 1973, she was the first African-American woman to receive a doctorate from MIT (in Physics). She is currently president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. More Info

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Other Biographies of Women Mathematicians

For more information on women in mathematics and science, check out these websites:

Biographies of Women Mathematicians
Biographies of Modern Women Mathematicians

Black Women in the Mathematics
Women in Mathematics Biographies
Women's Biography Sites
Women's History

Women in Mathematics Poster Order Form

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Related Articles bookdrop.gif

Why aren't girls choosing certain fields of study? What can be done? The following articles provide some answers.

Closing the Gender Gap in Mathematics
U.S. Culture Discourages Girls from Excelling at Math
Encouraging Girls in Math and Science - U.S. Department of Education - An Institute of Education Sciences Practice Guide
Doing What Works
Math-Anxious Teachers Affect Girls' Math Learning
Why So Few?
Women Opt Out Of Careers in Math/Science Cornell University Report
Jobs in Mathematics
We Are Losing Women From Mathematics
Women in Physics in the United States: A Progress Report
Where the Girls Are

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Professional Organizations meeting.jpg

The following associations provide a wealth of information on the subject of women in math and science.

Specifically for Women

The Association for Women in Mathematics
American Association of University Women
Association for Women in Science
Association for Women in Computing
The Caucus for Women in Statistics
Society of Women Engineers
The Ada Project - A Website for Women in Computing
Women of NASA
RAISE Project
Women in Math Project


National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics
American Mathematical Society
Mathematical Association of America

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Opportunities for Girls

"There's a genius in all of us."- Albert Einstein

These websites contain activities, challenges, contests, camp information, etc., designed for middle school through high school girls.

Sally Ride Science Camp
The Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge
A Math Club for Girls
Mu Alpha Theta
Engineer Girls
Girlstart - Empowering Girls in Math, Science, and Technology
A Guide to Engineering for High School Girls
NASA Summer Program
USA Science and Engineering Festival
Careers That Count - Opportunities in the Mathematical Sciences
Center for Women in Information Technology
Labor of Statistics
Internet Resources for Women in the Sciences

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Are Single-Sex Classrooms The Answer?

Girls Doing Math in a Single-Sex Classroom

"Adolescence is the time girls realize boys have all the power."- Simone de Beauvoir, feminist

Articles in Favor of Single Sex Classrooms

Single Sex Classroom
National Association For Single Sex Public Education (NASSPE)
School to Try Single-Sex Classes
Students say single-gender classrooms boost self-confidence
Keeping the Boys Away from the Girls
Executive Summary - Single Sex Versus Coeducational Schooling

Articles Against Single Sex Classrooms

Single Sex Classroom No Cure All
The Trouble With Single-Sex Schools
Campaign Against Single-Sex Schools
Single Sex Classroom No Cure All

Both Sides Presented

Boys and Girls Together, Taught Separately
Newsweek Article
K-12 Single-Sex Education: What Does the Research Say?
NEA Research Spotlight on Single-Gender Education
Teaching Boys and Girls Separately
Single-Gender Classes: Are They Better?

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excerpts from "Mean Girls" (2004)

Damian: [reading Cady's class schedule] Health, Spanish... you're taking 12th Grade Calculus?
Cady: Yeah, I like math.
Damian: Eww. Why?
Cady: Because it's the same in every country.
Damian: That's beautiful.
[to Janis]
Damian: This girl is deep.

Cady: I think I'm joining the Mathletes.
Regina, Gretchen, Karen: No! No, no!
Regina: You cannot do that. That is social suicide. *Damn*! You are so lucky you have us to guide you.

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