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SMA’s All-Female Science Department

September 12, 2017

Have you ever noticed that SMA has an all female science department? Out of five other local Catholic High Schools only 37.5% of their science departments are staffed with female teachers. The gender balance among science educators is improving but other schools still have a long way to go. It must be very hard to work in such a male-dominant field, so we wanted to hear first hand what it’s like for females in the science field.

Dr. Marra shares how she ended up teaching biology: “I always loved biology. I knew in high school I wanted to do something with biology, but I had a hard time figuring out what I wanted to do with it. So I majored in biology in undergrad and found my way to teaching after trying a few other things.” Statistics from The American Association of University Women show that the women are present more in biology than any other field. Showing these findings to Dr. Marra, she remarked, “I think biology is a natural extension of the fields that women have historically worked in, like healthcare, as nurses for example.”

Dr. Marra reflects “When I was in grad school, most of the professors were male, but the grad students were roughly half female.” Her experience shows that more women are becoming professionals in that field. When Dr. Marra was a student, she was taught by mostly males, but one of the next generations of teachers were close to or evenly split.

Shown by the same statistics the representation of females in engineering and physics is a much smaller amount and is not growing as rapidly. Both Mrs. Thiel and Mrs. Hounton shed light on the problem, saying that they feel that it’s mostly based on the example that is set. Mrs. Thiel states, “If you don’t feel like you belong in the group you are less likely to stay, and since there aren’t already very many females it is less likely for more to join.” They propose a solution to the problem; if there were more female mentors there’d be a higher chance of pulling in females. The statics however do show that in each field of science the amount of females is increasing; Dr. Marra positively states “Physics and computer sciences are lagging, but I think they will catch up. It’s encouraging to see all fields improving.”

Even though it is shown that males make up a greater portion of people working in STEM fields, the studies also show improvement. Dr. Marra gets to see this happen and she says: “I love seeing girls get excited about science! I also love watching girls build and engineer in Science Olympiad.”

Dr. Marra leaves with a message to anyone planning on going into a career in science, “[e]xplore lots of different careers before committing to something. There are lots of different fields in which you can be a scientist.” It is important for women to be in science because, “women are collaborative, creative and task oriented, all characteristics critical to success in scientific research.”

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