A freelance writer with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry surveys the obstacles confronting women in scientific and technical fields.
Hall drops in a few statistics, but mostly she relies on the stories of 94 women ages 14 to 81—including students, faculty, working women and women who have opted out somewhere along the way—to provide a picture of what it is like to be female in a male-dominated world. The nature-vs.-nurture question remains unanswered, she reports, but asserts that if female brains are different, the fact that women think differently should be celebrated, not seen as a detriment. She finds gender bias, subtle and not so subtle, in high-school and college classrooms and in postgraduate programs, where poor teaching and inadequate mentoring aggravate the situation. Her investigation of scientific and technical workplaces takes her to academia, government and industry. The interviewees report experiencing isolation, gender bias and a work ethic that sets up barriers to balancing work and personal life. The field of medicine, she notes, illustrates how one profession has changed in response to the presence of women—about half of all medical students are now female—and provides important lessons for other scientific fields that have long been controlled by men. Finally, Hall focuses on women who have chosen to leave science or technology jobs and have launched new, satisfying careers in other fields that may or may not utilize their scientific training and skills. She concludes with suggestions to parents, counselors, teachers and others on how to encourage girls to become interested in science, how to improve the teaching of science at all levels and how to make the professions more welcoming and the work environments friendlier.
A bland report containing few surprises, padded with repetitious stories.