Female Scientists Work To Crack The Glass Ceiling (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

Transcripts

Female Scientists Work To Crack The Glass Ceiling

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:02
Our next story is also about science, specifically the people working behind the scenes, the scientists and engineers who are taking chances and pushing scientific innovation forward. And the reality is that here in the U.S. the majority of those people are men. A 2008 report from the National Science Foundation showed approximately one in ten people who work in science and engineering are managers. And of those managers, fewer than 20 percent are women. Further, female doctoral science and engineering faculty are less likely than their male colleagues to be married and have children living with them.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:36
And the same report showed unmarried women without children received full professorships at a higher rate than married women with children. Kavitha Cardoza recently spoke with two local female scientists who are working to bring more women into the fold. And she joins us now to share their stories. Hi, Kavitha.

MS. KAVITHA CARDOZA

00:00:52
Hi, Rebecca.

SHEIR

00:00:54
So tell us a bit about these two scientists you met.

CARDOZA

00:00:55
Well, Dr. Marti Jett is the director of the Integrative Systems Biology program at the U.S. Army Center for Environmental Health Research. So in simple terms, for example, she looks at post-traumatic-stress disorder in every organ system to get a complete picture of what happens and how the condition can be treated. Dr. Debra Yourick is the director of Science Education and Strategic Communications at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. She's studying brain injuries and how we can develop better drugs to treat such injuries. Both of them are particularly concerned about getting girls interested in what are known as STEM classes, that means science, technology, engineering and math. Marti Jett says when she was in school, she was often the only girl in her science classes.

DR. MARTI JETT

00:01:42
Especially in high school. In almost all the science classes, certainly in physics, I was the only young woman in the class.

CARDOZA

00:01:49
These two women have started a summer program for about a thousand students in the D.C. area. It's called GEMS, Gains in the Education of Math and Science. It gives students who may not have had any exposure to science a little taste of what a scientific career might be like. So students get paid to do research, they even get their own mentors.

SHEIR

00:02:09
Okay. So a number of students in GEMS are females, of course. And the hope is that they'll opt for careers in science, but once they launch those careers, Kavitha, what kind of pressures might they face, according to Dr. Jett and Dr. Yourick?

CARDOZA

00:02:22
They were surprisingly candid about some of the subtle pressures they and other female scientists across the U.S. face or have faced in the workplace. For example, I noticed, Rebecca, they have just one or two photos of t heir families on display. And they said they purposely did that. Jett says she tells other women to make sure to display their awards.

JETT

00:02:42
I certainly was aware of the fact to put all my patent plaques on the wall, to put all the certificates and the things like that, you know. That seems to be the thing that the hierarchy is impressed with. And so, yes, that's what goes on the wall.

DR. DEBRA YOURICK

00:03:02
I'm looking at different awards and recognitions and some mementoes, gifts from commanders, that kind of thing.

JETT

00:03:11
It's representative of your career. You do need to talk about what you've done.

SHEIR

00:03:15
Have these women seen any overt discrimination against female scientists, any patterns?

CARDOZA

00:03:21
Well, when Jett started as a researcher, it wasn't uncommon for people to expect that the female scientists would make coffee for the men. But in general, both she and Yourick felt the obstacles to advancement for women are much more understated now.

YOURICK

00:03:35
They're not overt barriers ever. The things that I have seen that are wrong out there, when I've worked with other people and seen other circumstances for women, that you suspect leadership positions that come along, those positions might go to the male in the laboratory. I don't know. It's subtle.

CARDOZA

00:03:53
But Yourick still worries about women in science, based on the discrepancies between the number of girls participating in, say, the GEMS program and the number of women who actually end up working in the field.

YOURICK

00:04:03
Marti and I, over the years, have had lots of participation by women in programs, young girls, a lot of times more than 50 percent. I mean, I know of many programs like ours, but I've yet to really see it reflect itself in the larger scientific workforce.

SHEIR

00:04:21
So then, Kavitha, where do we go from here? I mean, how do these women think we need to go about getting more females into these fields?

CARDOZA

00:04:28
Both say they want to pass on their love for science, but they joke and say maybe their focusing on the wrong age group. Yourick says she was talking to another parent at her daughter's school once.

YOURICK

00:04:39
One of them pulled out the announcement that there was going to be a science fair. And she goes, "I just told my child we didn't really want to do this." I think we ought to come up with fun science camps for adults, those parents who aren't promoting what their children should be doing. Don't you think?

SHEIR

00:04:56
Well, maybe that will be their next project.

CARDOZA

00:04:59
Maybe. We'll see.

SHEIR

00:05:00
Well, Kavitha Cardoza, thank you so much for joining us.

CARDOZA

00:05:03
Thanks for having me.

SHEIR

00:05:04
And we want to know, do you think a glass ceiling still exists for women in science and engineering? If so, what do you think is the key to shattering it? You can email us at metro@wamu.org or tweet us, our handle is @wamumetro.

SHEIR

00:05:24
Up next, talking trash, literally.

MR. JEREMY BROSOWSKI

00:05:28
We have a robust rat problem in our alley and the last thing I was going to do was put a active compost pile in the backyard.

SHEIR

00:05:35
That and more coming your way on "Metro Connection," on WAMU 88.5.
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