Tuesday, March 9, 2010

We Need More Women in Science and Technical Fields

In a wonderful article in The New York Times, entitled, Risk and Opportunity in the 21st Century, it is stated that: In the years to come, the people who master the sciences will change the world — and most likely command the big paychecks.

The article goes on to discuss what are possible risks and opportunities in science with a focus on females. The article talks about the challenges facing females in science and that the number of females in computer science programs, mathematics, and branches of engineering has declined (a very sad state of affairs).

I very much appreciated the following quote in the article: Women need science and science needs women, said Béatrice Dautresme, chief executive of L’Oréal Foundation and architect of the L’Oréal-Unesco for Women in Science awards. The L'Oreal-Unesco awards recognize five scientists each year from across the world. Dautresme was also quoted as saying: If women can make it in science, they can make it anywhere.

Of course, science, as any field, requires hard work, excellence, and true dedication, if one wishes to succeed in it. There continue to be barriers to women in science and programs that recognize excellence and support researchers need to be nurtured. We also need more female role models and to show young females still in school the beauty and relevance of science (and engineering and even technical areas of business).

My areas of research and teaching include management science / operations research, which are quite technical and mathematical, but the applications are so fascinating that breaking barriers yields personal satisfaction and, sometimes, even rewards. But one must do the work for the love of research and discovery. If we don't generate interest in science and technical fields in all, irrespective of gender, we, as a nation, will lose in the 21st century. This is potentially a very frightening and sad scenario unless we act collaboratively now to generate interest and passion for science in the youth of America. We can't be outsourcing knowledge creation and innovation.