Review: A Lab Of Her Own blends anecdotes and statistics for a very persuasive piece

This is one of my favorite things to read: an informative news article. It’s accessible enought for a layman to read, yet rich with beautiful, fact-filled information. Michael Anft’s piece on colleges making strides to recruit and retain female undergraduates in engineering and computer science programs also feels human, thanks to the anecdotes he scatters throughout.

One of the issues the piece highlights is women who are held back due to their gender and not their intelligence. Anft’s opening does an excellent job portraying a brilliant young woman who was clearly held back by societal gender norms. Her success wasn’t limited because she wasn’t smart enough or didn’t work hard enough, but because as a woman, people assumed different things about her, and talked to her differently.

A more interesting piece of information, however, was how men and women weren’t all that different when it came to educational ability and interest. This is in spite of the huge range of differing backgrounds men and women had with technology as girls and boys. To quote the article:

men and women were equally capable of learning the subject and in the same ways — as long as females had the same mentoring, collaboration, and professional-development opportunities as the men did.

The article brings forth an important statement: that it is possible for colleges to eliminate the gender imbalance in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields. It details the struggle that university policymakers face when trying to encourage women in their STEM programs. Do they give everyone equal ground, or do they focus their policies towards encouraging and helping women specifically?

Though Anft relies heavily on the single example of Carnegie Mellon University, it provides the single ray of hope needed to show that universities have to potential to bring about gender parity in STEM fields. This is what makes the article so useful for an essay on the topic of Women in STEM, because it sets up a difficult problem and shows that it can be solved, then explains how. I’d highly recommend this read to anyone who wants to know more about how women are breaking into the STEM world.

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