What We Lose by Losing Women in the Hard Sciences

BY Jenny Marder and Elizabeth Summers  April 26, 2012 at 2:28 PM EDT

Is it inherent gender differences, subtle discrimination, the overwhelming “maleness” of the hard science fields? Experts have struggled for years to understand what’s keeping more women from entering physics, engineering and computer science.

Judy Woodruff recently posed the question to Maria Klawe, president of Harvey Mudd College, who has been hard at work trying to shrink the gender gap in these subjects.

They discuss why some students consider these sciences a “boy thing,” what we lose by losing the female perspective, the opportunities women may be missing, and her strategy of incorporating creative computer games to draw more females into the computer science department.

“If you completely shut out the entire feminine perspective on the world, you’re going to have a different set of products,” Klawe said.

See our story on the subject that ran on Wednesday: “Why Engineering, Science Gender Gap Persists.”

And join our live chat at noon ET on Friday. Judy Woodruff will moderate, and the participants scheduled to join us are:

  • Nancy Hopkins, professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of the groundbreaking Report on Women in Science, an effort aimed at improving gender equity among faculty in the MIT School of Science

  • Angela Bielefeldt*, associate professor of civil engineering at the University of Colorado at Boulder

  • Karen Peterson, Principal Investigator for the National Girls Collaborative Project, funded by the National Science Foundation* to increase the capacity of girl-serving STEM organizations via collaboration with a wide range of organizations, businesses, higher education, and community-based groups

  • Shree Bose, high school senior and winner of the 2011 Google Science Fair.

    *For the record, Angela Bielefeldt is a science adviser for the NewsHour. Also, the National Science Foundation is an underwriter of the NewsHour.