Why Aren't More Women in STEM Studies?


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Photo courtesy of PhotoSky/Shutterstock.com

The seemingly simple comments “you are such a girl” or “get back in the kitchen” have more lasting effects than brief moments of annoyance. These negative remarks haunt girls as they grow into women and proceed into their careers.

Everyone is familiar with the idea of sexism and perhaps even with the experience of it. Sexism is prejudice, stereotyping or discrimination, typically against women. The social status of women has indeed improved throughout American history. Women have achieved the ability to vote with the 19th Amendment and the chance to work for real wages in the 20th century.

Yet, women still face significant setbacks. Specifically, women in the STEM fields are largely underrepresented, making up only 13 percent of engineers and 25 percent of mathematicians. Many people believe that such inequalities are due to the careers restricting a woman’s productivity and publicity, or men creating an undesirable and sexist work environment. Intolerable offenses have their places in history; the well-known James Watson and Francis Crick cheated Rosalind Franklin out of a Nobel Peace Prize by claiming her work on DNA structure as their own.

More recently, Ester Lederberg’s original work on the reproduction of bacterial colonies was attributed to her husband. While the previously stated reasons for under-representation are valid, a more prominent issue can answer the question as to why women are not widely seen in a STEM setting today. The inequality originates from faulty childhood influences, inevitably discouraging girls from even working to achieve their dreams. The media presents infinite images of exclusively male scientists, and male classmates ignore their female peers. The false illusion that women are less able than men directly affects the actions women choose to take in their lives.

In a recent study, researchers examined how sexism in the academic settings of math and science affected a young woman’s self-esteem and value of those subjects (Brown & Leaper, 2010). Adolescent girls of different ethnic backgrounds answered a series of survey questions that assessed how they viewed their own abilities, how they valued the subjects of math and science, and what levels of sexism they have experienced. The study showed that more exposure to academic sexism reduced a girl’s self-esteem and fostered a negative response to math and science. Women have faced major discouragement during the learning process, causing them to give up on math and science.

So how could you advance toward a field of study when the world has done all it can to stop you? The faulty premise of sexism is as old as time. Providing an answer to this problem seems impossible; however, baby steps are the best method. Communities as a whole should introduce math and science to girls in elementary and middle schools in the form of camps or programs. Early reinforcement will eliminate a childhood of negative influences. In high school, students should strive to create and effectively maintain clubs dedicated to the matter where girls, and even boys who are concerned about this topic, can go on trips to STEM facilities and discuss problems in the classroom. And on a smaller level, peers can provide encouragement and advice when a friend is struggling. The true work lies with the younger years when girls are most impressionable. Instead of filling them with pessimism regarding math and science, encourage them by building up a foundation based on passion, curiosity and drive.

Kaylene Lu is a participant of Uplift Plus at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a program that seeks out high-achieving high school students who have been historically underrepresented in higher education. Her editorial — written for her freshman English class this summer — is among the first in a series of posts by other Uplift Plus students to be published by Carolina Parent. The editorials, assigned by UNC English teacher Moira Marquis, asked students to research a contemporary social issue for young adults and share their findings.

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June 2018

Run Club meets every Sunday at 8 a.m. in Midtown Raleigh or Wake Forest. Stroller friendly; children invited. 

Cost: $10/run or $100/annual pass

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Optimist Park Community Center/Greenways
5900 Whittier Drive
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Dads play free mini golf with each paying player at regular price.

Cost: $7.99/person

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Adventure Landing
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Raleigh, NC  27604
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Join Mindful Families of Durham, a Buddhist-inspired spiritual community that supports area parents, caregivers, and their children in the practice of mindfulness and the understanding of the...

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Erwin Road
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Take Dad to enjoy food trucks, live music and more at Durham Central Park's food truck rodeo. All ages.

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Durham Central Park
501 Foster St.
Durham, NC  27701
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For almost 200 years, farmers brought their wheat and corn to what is now Yates Mill to have their grains ground into flour and meal. Today, you can stop by the Yates Mill visitor center to see a...

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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It`s 1863 at Yates Mill, and the yard is alive with activity! Step back in time with our 19th-century costumed interpreters and watch the millstones at work grinding corn into meal.  Tour fee:...

Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60+), $3/Child (ages 7-16), Age 6 & under free

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Come out to the millpond and fish the old fashioned way - we'll provide you with a cane pole, tackle, and bait, along with basic instructions and assistance with identifying fish species. You'll...

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Little ones enjoy storytime.

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5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
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The Art Therapy Institute has been working in the Chapel Hill/Carrboro City Schools with the Exceptional Children's Program for the past ten years. Enjoy a summer art therapy groups in June and...

Cost: $20 per session

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Art Therapy Institute of NC
200 N Greensboro St. Suite D-6 (2nd Floor Carr Mill Mall)
Carrboro, NC  27510
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Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
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Weekly basic skills cooking class offered for children ages 5-10 at Whole Foods North Raleigh.  This free class meets at the cafe each Tuesday at 4 p.m. and is offered by registering...

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Whole Foods Market (North Raleigh)
8710 Six Forks Road
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Learn about law issues including divorce, separation, child custody, child support, landlord-tenant issues, and more. A local attorney will lead the discussion. This event is free and free...

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Compass Center for Women and Families
210 Henderson Street
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Every year on June 21, we enjoy the most hours of sunlight during the whole year. Discover the science and cultural celebrations behind this special summer day. Make a pretty suncatcher to hang in...

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Cost: $2/person

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Walnut Creek Wetland Park
950 Peterson St.
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Telephone: 919-996-2760
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Little ones enjoy storytime.

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Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
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Raleigh National Cemetery
501 Rock Quarry Rd.
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Join park staff for an informal fishing experience for the whole family. Take your own poles or borrow one from the park through the Tackle Loaner Program. Bait and basic instruction are...

Cost: Free

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Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Parkway
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Every year on June 21, we enjoy the most hours of sunlight during the whole year. Discover the science and cultural celebrations behind this special summer day. Make a pretty suncatcher to hang in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Join us at Chatham Marketplace in Pittsboro every Thursday at 10 a.m. for a casual storytime on the porch or even out in the yard. 

Cost: Free

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Chatham Marketplace
480 Hillsboro St.
Pittsboro, NC  27312
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Enjoy an easy-paced and stroller-friendly walk along the greenway. Suggested for ages 3 and younger with parent. Register online. Choose course #219870.

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Walnut Creek Wetland Park
950 Peterson St.
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Little ones enjoy storytime.

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Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
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Every year on June 21, we enjoy the most hours of sunlight during the whole year. Discover the science and cultural celebrations behind this special summer day. Make a pretty suncatcher to hang in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Go nutty for nature as children satisfy some of their curiosity about the world around them and parents share in the joy of discovery. Ages 3-5 with parent. Register online.

Cost: $10/resident, $13/nonresident

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Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
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Cost: Free with admission

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10700 World Trade Blvd, #112
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Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about carry positions, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to crawl,...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
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Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
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Join the folks at Open Table UMC in the Mordecai Neighborhood for free music and food trucks.

Cost: Free

Where:
Open Table United Methodist Church
824 N. Bloodworth Street
Raleigh, NC  27604
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Telephone: 919-561-2637
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See the remake of Jeghetto’s hit puppet show co-written by Pierce Freelon of The Beast. This show was awarded two grants from the Henson Foundation. This Afrofuturistic puppet show,...

Cost: $15/person

Where:
The ArtsCenter
300-G East Main Street
Carrboro, NC  27510
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Sponsor: The ArtsCenter
Telephone: 191-992-92787
Contact Name: Patrick Phelps-Mckeown
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See the critically acclaimed documentary p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px Arial; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000} span.s1 {font-kerning: none} from Academy Award-winning...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
2116-D New Bern Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27610
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The summer heat is back, and so are the insects! Join us in the Finley Center exhibit hall to do some fun insect-themed crafts. We will make butterflies, dragonflies, ladybugs, and other insect...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Transform a plastic storage box into a worm bin suitable for indoor use. Materials provided. Suggested for ages 6 and older. Register online by June 17. Choose course #220017.

Cost: $45/family for City of Raleigh residents; $60 for non-residents

Where:
Walnut Creek Wetland Park
950 Peterson St.
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-2761
Contact Name: Stacie Hagwood
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Get the real scoop on turtles, how they “earn a living," and hear a story. Ages 5 and older. Register online.

Cost: $1/person

Where:
Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Rd
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Telephone: 919-870-4330
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Go nutty for nature as children satisfy some of their curiosity about the world around them and parents share in the joy of discovery. Ages 3-5 with parent. Register online.

Cost: $10/resident, $13/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
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After a shaded walk out to the creek entrance, take nets into the water to see some of these creek critters up close. Discuss some of the reasons it’s so important to keep these aquatic...

Cost: Free

Where:
Johnston Mill Nature Preserve
6001 Turkey Farm Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
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Sponsor: Triangle Land Conservancy
Telephone: 191-990-80054
Contact Name: Molly Richard
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Read stories together and enjoy an arts and crafts activity based on the books.

Cost: $5

Where:
Read With Me
111 E. Hargett St., #110
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
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Enjoy Little Golden Books' "Jurassic Park." This action-packed and age-appropriate title is great for dinosaur lovers, both new and old. Activities to follow. 

Cost: Free

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Barnes & Noble
760 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
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Enjoy food trucks, games and dog-related vendors.

Cost: Free

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Dorothea Dix Park
2105 Umstead Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Want to get inside Historic Yates Mill? Join us for a half-hour tour (starting at 1, 1:30, 2, 2:30 or 3 p.m.) to view the main power drive and milling machinery while exploring the mill's...

Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60+), $3/Child (ages 7-16), Age 6 & under free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Pilobolus delivers a one-hour family friendly performance as part of the American Dance Festival. Enjoy an all-ages party in the lobby featuring live music, face-painting,...

Cost: $17.25/person

Where:
Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian Dr.
Durham, NC  27701
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Cost: Adults (18+) $10; Youth (7-17) $4; Children (6 & under) Free.

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220 Fayetteville St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Cost: $15/person. Free for ages 12 and younger

Where:
Vollmer Farm
677 NC Hwy 98 East
Bunn, NC  27508
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Cost: $10.00 per boat

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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As the Triangle continues to grow, it is increasingly important to tell the stories of North Carolina so that natives, newcomers and visitors alike feel at home in our great places. Celebrate North...

Cost: $15-$20

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2601 Broad St.
Holly Springs, NC  27540
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See the critically acclaimed documentary p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px Arial; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000} span.s1 {font-kerning: none} from Academy Award-winning...

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2116-D New Bern Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27610
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