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The Daily Need

Girls win big at Google science fair

Google announced the winning results of its first science fair earlier this week. More than 10,000 applicants from 91 countries entered the online contest. As you may have heard by now, the winners were all girls: Shree Bose (17-18 age group), Naomi Sha (15-16 age group) and Lauren Hodge (13-14 age group) each won first place in their respective age categories.

Grand Prize Winner Shree Bose accepting her award. Screen capture taken from The Google Science Fair Channel.

This is a significant moment for girls in science, as well as a much-needed reminder of the importance of encouraging talented girls and women to stay in a field where they have been historically underrepresented.

Google Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist Vint Cerf, who also served as a judge in the science fair, calls the fact that all three winners were girls a “coincidence.”

“This underlines that there is no quality difference between the genders,” Cerf said.

In recent years, significant strides have been made by women in the top echelons of science, but men continue to outnumber women in most academic departments. According to the Association for Women in Science, doctoral degrees in engineering were distributed at a ratio of one woman to 416 men in 1950. In 2005, it was one woman to nearly five men. In 2003, 26 percent of women are employed in science and technology related professions, compared to 18 percent in 1983.

Countless studies have shown that one reliable predictor of success for any science student is a strong mentor. A 2008 study published in the journal “Sex Roles” looked at those who graduated from top U.S. doctoral programs in chemistry from 1988 to 1992. The authors concluded, anecdotally, that women experience a mentoring gap compared to men in science, beginning with their undergraduate studies.

It’s also important to note that all the winners in the Google science fair focused on projects related to bioscience. Biology is the one area of science which has historically had a reputation for being more open to women. In 2004, American women were nearly on par with their male peers for the numbers of doctoral degrees received in the biomedical and biological sciences and had even surpassed men in the amount of bachelor degrees in these fields, according to Association for Women in Science statistics.

For Carol Kemelgor, director of the Center for Women in Science at the State University of New York at Purchase, the biology focus of these three winning projects is not at all surprising. Having interviewed students and faculty in science Ph.D. programs across the country for a book about the gender gap in science that she co-authored with Henry Etzkowitz and Brian Uzzi in 2000, Kemelgor noted that biology departments in universities tend to have a more extensive mentoring system compared to any other science departments.  “Students spend a year choosing mentors,” she said.

If more women enter the sciences, then there will be more female mentors who might reciprocate for a younger generation until an eventual leveling of the playing field exists. In the meantime, the Google Science Fair winners will hopefully inspire more talented young women to pursue their passion for science.

“Having all three of the winners be girls is amazing,” said winner Shree Bose. “Science has been one of the fields that girls have come in second and winning this contest makes me feel really good being a girl and a scientist.”

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  • A HS Teacher

    Boys drop out more, get in trouble more, fight more, and are too busy playing video games…it’s no wonder the girls finally had their day (and deservedly so). So, can we now stop the rhetoric that girls are constantly shortchanged by the K-12 “system”? That said, girls need to be taught to negotiate salaries so they’re not subject to the “seventy cents to the man’s dollar” constraint.

  • antoinette .

    all my 3 girls love science, and i hope they will do well in it, we don’t have science fairs like that in the uk, i wish we did

  • Anonymous

    No. We can’t. It doesn’t say that the winners were from the U.S.  And, how about instead of teaching girls to “negotiate salaries,” we teach their bosses to pay the same salary for the same work. Seems pretty simple to me. (As if most jobs for women are open for salary/wage negotiation.) I’m amazed that you place the blame for the disparity on the women and not the bosses.

  • thatguy221

    this article says nothing about their entries. who gives a damn if they are women or not, they are people who did a good thing for the world that is what matters. why do we have to continue looking at race and gender in amazement when somebody comes from a “minority” or anything like that. we should just be proud of them. now please let me get to google so i can see what they actually contributed.

  • Guest

    There is a link within the article.

  • Guest

    There is a link within the article.

  • Cindy Day

    So I want to know what kind of research they did, why they did it, how they did it and what results they got.  Amazing that there isn’t one ounce of info on that.  Don’t you know?  We care about science in this country.

  • CrowMeris

    Yes, all three girls are from the US (follow the link in the first sentence of the article, then follow the links to their projetcts).

  • CrowMeris

    Click on the words “science fair” in the lead-in sentence.

    And no, we don’t care about science in this country, especially as it relates to girls. We care about Toddlers and Tiaras; we focus on Bratz and Barbies; we subject our girls to high-heeled shoes at six, virgin waxing at eight, Botox at 10, bejazzlin’ vay-jays at 12, and breast augumentation at 14 – and then wonder why “16 and Pregnant” is one of the top-rated shows on the tube.

    Mama stands in front of the mirror bemoaning and criticizing her own body; Daddy has his cache of porn. Our girls are taught (from an achingly early age and from virtually every direction) that porn-star performance and perfection should be their goal.

    So hurrah for these girls, for their determination, for their teachers, for their role models – because, no, we don’t really care.

  • JessieQBryan

    I was the only female invited to my science fair n the seventh grade along with four boys. I also won the regional contest for my area of science. I believe whole heartedly that girl can do just as well, if not better then boys in science as well as anything else. I’m very proud of these girls!