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Why Do Women Choose Science?

Why Do Women Choose Science?

In the framework of the international forum “Women’s Dialogue. Infinity Charity” a round table discussion took place dedicated to woman’s role in the development of humanitarian collaboration.  Sarah Harder, President of the National Peace Foundation, emeritus professor of the University of Wisconsin, opened the meeting with a powerful speech devoted to the role of woman in science. She spoke about research published in 1991 by the American Association of University Women (AAUW ) showing large gaps between girls and boys (ages 9-15 in both studying math/science or planning careers in these fields.  This nationwide study was titled "Shortchanging Girls/Shortchanging America." (Sarah Harder served as President of this century-old organization from 1985-89.)

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In 1994 another "AAUW Report: How America's Schools Shortchange Girls" examined 1300 published studies on girls in US schools that confirmed the existence of gender bias which discouraged pursuit by American girls of math and science study. A 135-year- old non-governmental organization, AAUW has chapters and affiliations with colleges and universities in every state.  Its members advocate at local, state and national levels for advances in public education, particularly for women and girls. The AAUW Educational Foundation is a recognized Public Charity (supported by its members and public donors) that funds projects, research and Fellowships on these issues. (AAUW publishes these reports and now many STEM resources on its internet site.)

Professor Harder remembered her own university career as a teacher, administrator and advocate for change. She learned with her local chapter of AAUW that raising one's voice for change and progress can inspire more voices, until people begin to listen.  Women's voices often offer new perspectives that offer real change, new results and improvements to existing problems and institutions. As president of the American Association of University Women in the 1980's, she was proud to share her voice with 150,000 members.

Sarah Harder spoke further about a collaboration proposed by leaders of the Russian Federation of University Women to Graduate Women USA on promoting STEM issues-- that is, to share information as we both work to increase the preparation of girls and women in our countries for "STEM" Fields (representing "Science, Technology, Engineering and Math"). She stated how impressed she was during her first visit to Moscow in 1989 to find much larger representations of USSR women in these fields than in the US. And she believes that American and Russian women today have much to learn from each other's experiences in promoting greater participation by women in these fields. This discussion was continued by speakers from Russia and other countries, emphasizing women's great responsibility to contribute to development of the whole society, while often also fulfilling family responsibilities.

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Touching upon the issue of charity and fund-raising, Sarah Harder mentioned that AAUW's STEM focus for women and girls brought new attention and larger public donations to its US Educational Foundation, beginning with its 1991 Research Report that first presented the need. There is now common consensus that a world increasingly impacted by technology cannot afford to allow 1/2 its population to remain outsiders. In continuation of this theme another participant noted that local governments and institutions should also collaborate with charities and volunteer efforts.

All in all the discussion was very inspiring. As Sarah Harder noticed a bit later in her interview to our web-site, there was much listening, much communication. And that is very important because experience sharing and ideas sharing can help the participants find new opportunities of their further activity, new ways of collaboration, and new prospects for creation.

No wonder that many participants of the round table discussion, as well as a lot of successful women all over the world, are able to combine their career and social activity with the joy of motherhood being mothers of three or four children. 

In the final part of the meeting the attention was drawn to the importance of father in the family life and in the education and upbringing of children. One of the participants mentioned the fact that there are special programmes for fathers helping them maintain the family life and take an active part in the upbringing of children.

Oksana Kurenya, news agency of the Eurasian Women’s Community


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