"Your prejudice is showing" one student responded. Another quipped: "This is a stupid question. Women who feel that way are just feeling jealous of male successes. Men and women both have the same chances in the science field." In similar style, a third answered: "Only women who feel offended, intimidated by the male success would answer yes to this question. It's all in the mind."

Both quantitative and qualitative assessments suggest that students perceive women and science to be at odds.

Too much should not be drawn from a statistical or quantitative presentation of these findings. Much work remains to be done. Nonetheless, the implications are troubling. First both quantitative and qualitative assessments suggest that students perceive women and science to be at odds. This tension manifests itself in the assumption that science is "male stream." It manifests itself as well in women's career choices. Most of my students surveyed responded that they had never considered a career in science.

Some of their justifications had an almost nineteenth-century flavour to them. Women, they suggested, lacked a "natural inclination" for science; they preferred professions which required "personal" rather than "rational" skills. Perhaps most problematically, few of me students perceived science as a vehicle for change. "I think of science as being too static," one of my students surveyed responded. "Although with considerable effort women can change the face of modern science. Science does not provide opportunity for social change." And while my students who sought change seemed to abandon science, those who aspired to careers in science seemed to see little need for change, as me above quotes indicate.

These results also suggest that we need to rethink our pedagogical and conceptual approaches to problems of science and gender. Over me past twenty years, academics have tied their desire to transform science to me goal of increasing women's participation in science, but our efforts to accomplish both at once appear less man successful. Women who share the transformative goal seem to have little interest in science, while those women who enter science seem to have little time to spend on transformation.

Their defensiveness is hardly surprising. Our calls for a "feminist" science have targeted women as the standard bearers of change and charged them with the responsibility of creating a more humanistic, more critical, more contextual, less hierarchical science. This places a further burden on me women who study science by challenging a group that is already a minority to also assume the stance of maverick.

Reflecting on the limited impact of a decade of activism, Marsha Hanen recently charged academics to consider why it is that we want more women in science anyway. The results of this survey raise the same question and indicate that the time has come for us to start disentangling our goals.

Gina Feldberg teaches in the Department of Social Science at York University.

  1. For details see S. Beauchamp and G. Feldberg, Girls and Women in Medicine, Mathematics, Engineering, Science and the Technological Trades Ontario Advisory Council on Women's Issues, Toronto: 1991.

  2. Mary Roth Walsh, Doctors Wanted: No Women Need Apply - Sexual Barriers in the Medical Profession Yale University Press, New Haven: 1978; Margaret Rossiter, American Women Scientists: Struggles and Strategies to the 1940s. John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore: 1982. See also Rose Sheinin and Lykke De La Cour, "Canadian Women Medical Scientists of 1870-1911: A Made-Invisible Canadian Product," The Crucible (1987); Rose Sheinin, "Women in Science: Issues and Actions," Canadian Women's Studies (1984) 5: 70-77, and Marianne Ainley, Despite the Odds. Vehicule, Montreal: 1990.

  3. One of the prototypes of this work was Hubbard, Ruth, Henifen, Mary Sue, and Reid, Barbara, eds. Women Looking at Biology Looking at Women. Schenkman, Cambridge, 1978. See also Ann Fausto Sterling, Myths of Gender. Basic Books, New York: 1985.

  4. Bentson, Margaret. "Feminism and the Critique of Scientific Method" in Angela Miles and Geraldine Finn, eds. Feminism in Canada: From Pressure to Politics. Black Rose, Montreal: 1982; Belencky, Mary Field, et. al., Women's Ways of Knowing Basic Books, New York: 1986; Gilligan, Carol, In a Different Voice Harvard University Press, Cambridge: 1982.

  5. An important critique of this process is provided by Ursula Franklin, "Will Women Change Technology, or Will Technology Change Women?" 1985.

  6. "Female Engineers Seek New Recruits," Globe and Mail (Feb. 11, 1991) p. A6.

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