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Conference Helps Women take on the Physics World February 22, 2007

Posted by Sacha in Science, Women.

I just read a fantastic article by Candace Partridge over at Inkling Magazine about the University of Southern California’s Undergraduate Women in Physics Conference.  She really gets to the heart of the issue.  Here’s a little excerpt, but she is a great writer, so I encourage you to go read the full piece.  She is relaying a conversation with her mom who asks, “Yes, but why just for women? Who cares?”

I paused, a bit puzzled, “Er, because there aren’t that many of us? We’re under-represented.” She oohhhed a bit knowingly, then started her spiel.

“Well, you know, men’s and women’s brains are just different. It’s just genetics, you know. Women are naturally better at things like English. You’re just a special one,” she laughed. 

I cringed. “Mom, this is exactly the sort of crap that we’re fighting against, and it’s even worse that women themselves buy into it. Thinking like that made me get an English degree, because I thought I wasn’t good enough to do math. And you can see that’s not true at all.”

She said nothing more. But I thought about that roomful of engaging and intelligent women. I’m glad to know I’m definitely not all that special and I’m certainly not the only one. That, in essence, was what the conference was all about.

I have close friends and family that believe this.  About half of them are women.  Why do we participate in our own oppression?  Does it make us feel better about not pursuing our dreams?  Would it drive us batty to realize we aren’t living up to our true potential?  Here’s a news flash:  There is no genetic proof.  As my statistics teachers tries to drill into our heads everyday, it is almost impossible to prove that something doesn’t exist.  This difference does not exist and that is difficult to prove, but I provide here as evidence an entire conference of female undergraduate physics students at the University of Southern California.   

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