We finally brought in an expert! Dr. Bob Cook, professor of Computer Science at Georgia Southern University. Dr. Bob has been teaching college students about technology for over 35 years! In addition to GSU, Dr. Bob has taught at Ole Miss, UVa and the University of Wisconsin.
Dr. Cook’s take on the issue of women in science and engineering was an eye opener. He started by reminding us that in the later part of the 20th century, we (the USA) were building GREAT things like nuclear power plants, interstate highways, and bridges. There was also the space race. These were inspiring projects that drove a lot of people into technical fields. He suggested a few inspiring projects that might reignite the spark and drive new engineers of both genders back to school. He best idea (I thought) was an underwater city. Sort of like a moon colony, but somewhere in (under?) the Pacific. Dr. Cook also suggested that the way we teach science pre college might be a factor. He suggested more ‘hands on’ learning in the technical fields such as experiments and field trips.
We also talked a lot about ‘Nature vs. Nurture.’ This is an age old question. Bob was more on the side of nurture, suggesting that part of the problem was that we hand our daughters dolls right away and dress them in pink. Certainly this is a factor, but Mark and Matt felt that mother nature’s influence was stronger. We have both seen boy children gravitate to cars and hammers while girls will gravitate towards dolls and kitchens. This is simply based on observation of my own children and their friends. Certainly these are not hard and fast rules, just gender statistical tendencies. To be on the safe side though, you might want to give your daughter a calculator to go along with that ‘polly pocket’.
Then Mark went to nsf.gov (http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/wmpd/2013/digest/theme4.cfm) and read off some statistics. Women made up a huge percentage nurses, dietitions and teachers and an incredibly small percentage of engineers. This is the heart of the issue. How do we fix this? Is it really a problem or just indicative of gender differences? Matt felt that any sort of strong manipulation (read – affirmative action) was simply social engineering. Mark agreed. John was smart and stayed silent. I think we could all agree that:
- There certainly should not be any barriers to women in technical fields. We need to make SURE of that
- We as a country (and a race) need to get our act together and start building some cool, inspiring stuff!
- Pre college teaching methods for math and science could use some help.
Regardless, it was a GREAT episode and fun was had by all. Thanks to Dr. Cook for joining us. Thanks to YOU for downloading. Thanks for subscribing. Thanks for giving us 5 stars on iTunes, but MOST OF ALL – Thanks for spending an hour with us!