Wanted: women science majors

There is a nationwide concern that only a low proportion of women major in the applied sciences and mathematics. We at the Record believe the disproportionate number of women who choose to major in certain Div. III departments here at Williams should prompt the College to make efforts to encourage interested females to major in departments that are typically dominated by males. We believe the College can have a positive impact by encouraging both male and female students in introductory level courses to consider becoming a major in their respective fields. In particular, professors can facilitate female interest in science and math by helping students to challenge stereotypes and overcome negative high school experiences. One of the most effective ways to do this is to construct a cohesive approach that all departments could use to ensure that they are accessible to underrepresented students.

One of the strongest attractions of the College is the highly personalized connection students have with their professors. These professors have already made an impact by assisting their female students in applying for research positions and encouraging them to consider a science or math major. This currently occurs at an individual level, however, and occurs without a unified mechanism to ensure that professors are taking the extra step to help females challenge stereotypes. A typical response to such a problem at the College is to increase programming targeted at convincing females to consider science majors, but this can easily be ignored in the hectic pace of students’ lives. Instead, it would be beneficial for departments to have a committee to ensure inter-departmental exchange of successful approaches that help encourage females to major in male dominated fields. This would ensure that each department is cognizant of the need for such encouragement.

While professors must be aware of the low number of female majors, we at the Record would like to encourage all professors of introductory classes to utilize their influence over first-years to encourage them to consider further coursework in departments that they might not have considered prior to attending the College. As a liberal arts school it is, after all, our goal to encourage interdisciplinary study and a breadth of academic experiences. With a plethora of support, highly engaged students and involved professors, as well as divisional requirements that push students to try new subjects, we at the Record believe the College is faced with an important responsibility to push back against national trends by encouraging females to become leaders in traditionally male-dominated areas.

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