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An Open Letter About Women in Science

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Brandeis chapter.

Growing up, I was told I could be I wanted: a singer, dancer, scientist, doctor, lawyer, it doesn’t matter. But as I grew older, something didn’t feel right. I love science, don’t get me wrong. I want to major in computer science, but in the back of my mind, I knew that through college, I’d gradually become one of the fewer and fewer women in my field–  only 18% of women in the U.S earn computer science degrees. And totally get that feeling: in high school, I was one of 5 girls in my computer science class of 22 students. The queasiness I felt walking into class every day was subtle yet pervasive: I only knew 2 other girls in the class and I had never seen or talked to my other classmates prior to this class. Being in a highly competitive school, coupled with the fact that I’m more of an introvert, I often felt dwarfed by my more “geeky” classmates(always male) — you know, the ones that always went above and beyond the classwork with their super cool side projects; the very type of student I wanted to be. I didn’t feel comfortable asking my teacher (who was female, by the way) for help either since she never bothered to pay attention to anyone but the kids who were going above and beyond with their “super cool” side projects unless there was an assignment you still needed to turn in. The solution should have been simple, right? Stake my claim as part of the class by coming up with my own super awesome side project and if I needed help with something, go right up to the smartest person in the class and ask them my question as a classmate, as an equal. So, why was that so hard? 

I started thinking, wondering if I should leave computer science to pursue a career in medicine. After all, it seemed like the logical choice: I wanted to be a doctor for the longest time, and the odds that I would find more girls in my field were better (since most of my friends were pre-med anyway). The answer slapped me in the face: society is stuck in a cycle where women aren’t encouraged to pick a career in science, but the only way to fix it is to encourage more women to pick a career in science, but we can’t get women into science in the first place. It’s like the “I can’t get an entry-level job without having previous experience, but I’ve never had a job before” problem that all college graduates inevitably face one day. It’s absolutely ridiculous, and it might just be me (*cue Celine Dion*), but as much as society has progressed in terms of women’s rights, the inequality bubbles underneath the surface, only to rear its ugly head, lashing out on women in science. Okay, that might have been a little dramatic, but you get where I’m coming from, don’t you? Look at the numbers: 63% of the time, men were given higher pay than their female alternative for the same role in tech companies. And women were being offered between 4-45% less pay for their starting salary than their male alternatives. It also means that a woman would make $0.88 for every $1 a man makes. Okay, real talk though, there are things that we can do– like keep supporting young girls to enter science, or advocating for women’s rights in general. Honestly, I don’t have all the solutions, and it’s a work in progress, but it’s important that we keep the dialogue open. Communication is effective; it’s a way to express ideas and connect with others, and healthy dialogue is key to reaching a solution. It will take time, but eventually, I think that we could get it done because in the words of The Queen, Beyonce: Who runs the world? Girls!