hey, you. especially you female persons. study math.

From Wikipedia:

An event in George Dantzig’s life became the origin of a famous story in 1939 while he was a graduate student at UC Berkeley. Near the beginning of a class for which Dantzig was late, professor Jerzy Neyman wrote two examples of famously unsolved statistics problems on the blackboard. When Dantzig arrived, he assumed that the two problems were a homework assignment and wrote them down. According to Dantzig, the problems “seemed to be a little harder than usual”, but a few days later he handed in completed solutions for the two problems, still believing that they were an assignment that was overdue.

Six weeks later, Dantzig received a visit from an excited professor Neyman, eager to tell him that the homework problems he had solved were two of the most famous unsolved problems in statistics. He had prepared one of Dantzig’s solutions for publication in a mathematical journal. As Dantzig told it in a 1986 interview in the College Mathematics Journal:

A year later, when I began to worry about a thesis topic, Neyman just shrugged and told me to wrap the two problems in a binder and he would accept them as my thesis.

Years later another researcher, Abraham Wald, was preparing to publish a paper which arrived at a conclusion for the second problem, and included Dantzig as its co-author when he learned of the earlier solution.

In 2009, about 32% of PhDs awarded in mathematics were to women, compared to evolutionary biology, in which 48% of women were awarded PhDs. Women likewise are relatively equal in biochemistry, statistics, neuroscience, and molecular biology.

But why are we behind in the hardest of the ‘hard sciences’? Mathematics, physics, astrophysics, computer science, engineering? Less than 20% of physics PhDs were awarded to women in 2009.

That statistic is almost hard to believe because I come from a women’s school where a great majority of students I know personally are math and science majors. You’re looking at one of them– an economics and mathematics double major. At my college, 51% of tenured faculty are women, when you’re looking at a nationwide average of only 31%; research suggests that in the sciences, the more females there are on the faculty, the more likely their female students will pursue the sciences. I am surrounded by smart, driven women, 80% of which make it to graduate school in the next 10 years after graduation. Additionally, after MIT, my college was the home of the second established undergraduate physics lab in the United States.

But these are anomalies, by and by. This does not happen in other schools, not even in some Ivy Leagues and other top-notch schools. In general, women simply do not dive for physics, mathematics, and engineering. In an era where we say that a woman can do anything a man can, we are still far behind in matching men in the hard sciences. I will not go into the details why, but you can read these following articles if interested:

Maybe not all of us females can be like Mr. George Dantzig and solve ‘unsolved’ conjectures for homework, but we can still shoot for those physics, mathematics, engineering PhDs and excel. I am begging you, if you have any interest in the sciences, especially the hard sciences, please continue to explore that in college.

Perhaps we all do not need to study pure mathematics and go to math grad school, but females can all certainly branch out to biomedical engineering, pharmacy, and computer science, all high-paying disciplines that require higher than average mathematical skills and reasoning. From the way the world economy is going, the majority of jobs will be located in a sector that utilizes science and technology. Mathematics cannot be overlooked. Even for women who would like to head out into the service sector– being savvy in mathematics and economics would help lead to an even cushier retirement.

ugh.

I came into college looking to major in history, but I ended up with mathematics. However, many of my female friends from high school are the opposite, at the onset, they proclaim allegiance to engineering, but some (not all) find the environment too daunting and difficult that they gravitate towards cinema studies, and god forbid, biology. Not all of us have the good fortune to be inspired and surrounded by so many women who are driven in the hard sciences, but just know, you can do it. Even if you are not the brightest banana in the bunch, but you like mathematics a hell of a lot better than reading Tess of the D’Urbervilles in English, just go for it. Please do not fall into the “I’m too pretty to do math” trap. Weather through middle school and high school, and trust me, you will find many females like you in college.

If you love it, you will always be able to find a way.

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11 thoughts on “hey, you. especially you female persons. study math.

      • If I did not remember wrongly, math is a compulsory passing subject if you want to further your studies in Singapore. Fail Math is as bad as you fail English. Even admission to uni, almost 90% of the degree course need st least a H2 passing for math.
        For me, math is easier than written subject eg biology, history.
        Math is just lots lots of excerise & the formula & format will stick in your brain.
        Actually I steer my daughters towords math for their O level. They had at least 3 math related subject (E-math, A-math, POA & physic).
        I had explain teacher will not able to deduct points for grammer & spelling mistakes for math..haha
        The result…. not too bad…They get into the course that they are interested.

        • it’s a pity the US isn’t like Singapore, or many Asian countries.. in the US, math is something that most people like to avoid and complain about. Haha, that’s great for your daughters! My mother was like “Whatever!” with my schooling.. though in some of my math courses, they would make us write out the answer, and sometimes they would deduct if the explanation wasn’t “clear”. If I ever have children, I will also try to impress upon them the importance of having a well-rounded education in everything, not just softer subjects like English or history..

          thanks for stopping by (: yay for math!!
          Michelle

      • it depends on where you go for business or economics. if you go to MIT, then yes, it will be very mathy. However, for most undergraduates, unless you go to graduate school, then chances are, the highest math you’ve taken is multivariable calculus (not even, I know many of my fellow classmates who skipped it), which is only intermediate level (200). Business school, nah, you don’t learn math, but economics grad is all about it.

        Michelle

  1. in the “girls are smarter than boys” article you linked, there is a comment at the bottom: “The abilities of men are subjugated to the needs of women. We have always lived in a “women first” society and this necessarily involves men having to sacrifice their own aims, ambitions and imperatives to those of women.
    Women by contrast think the world was ‘designed for them’ which behaviour marks out their priorities for the remainder of their lives : ‘me first and last'”
    coming from a women’s college, what do you think of that?

    • that guy (if I assume correctly) is a total troll. In general, that is so not true. Look at the women in the top positions of careers. Cooking, technology, directing movies– the majority are men. Men subjugated to women? … um … what is he seeing? He must be closing his eyes for all of the income disparities that women still face today, controlling for all possible factors. Simply put, if we just coldly analyze man and woman, just for being born a male, a male will have the better standard of life.

      However, I must say that my views aren’t really influenced by coming from a women’s college, it’s more of the fact of.. this is life.. and you can’t argue with hard, cold stats. This is far from a woman’s world..

      thanks for stopping by as always ^^~
      Michelle

  2. This is actually the first time I’ve seen your blog. I rarely comment on posts, but this one I felt I had to. In my last few months of high school, there were posters all around my school of how women should look into engineering, mathematics, and etc. I always hated them because they were saying that girls feel they can;t do them. But that was just me, because of my situation. I was good and math, physics, science; all of those subjects came easily to me and were my top subjects throughout my public school years. However, looking forward to my future career, I knew that I wouldn’t be good in any of these fields because I have no interest in them. I mean I like learning new tidbits about the subjects and stuff (for example, I really like watching shows like Daily Planet on Discovery Channel), but if I were to go into a career in those fields, I would be bored, stressed, and not enjoying myself whatsoever. For me, my enjoyment is in Psychology, and working with autistic children. While I realize that that is viewed as a more “feministic” field, it’s what pleases me, and that’s what counts

    In no way am I trying to say you are wrong. Yes, I do think that more women need to think about going into math or physics. However, I don’t believe that people should be saying they have to go in it if the subject does not interest them, because in the end, it won’t help the individual nor will it help the company they end up working for.

    Kelly

    • thank you for your well thought-out comment. I agree. I hope I didn’t come off like that :P of course it isn’t true for every girl who doesn’t like maths and sciences it’s because of the lack of female role models.. but a lot of it is subconscious, so for the girls who are actually conscious that they do like the hard sciences, I would like them to know that it is very possible to follow what they want to do (:

      thanks again for stopping by!
      Michelle

  3. Pingback: Hey, you. Especially you female persons. Study math. | STEMinist

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