Quirks and Quarks

The Only Woman In The Room

According to author Eileen Pollack, science is still a boys' club, and bias and sexism are significant issues for aspiring women scientists

A woman with ambitions to study science recalls the obstacles placed in her way

Photo from the famous 1927 Solvay conference. Marie Curie is third from the left in the front row. (Photograph by Benjamin Couprie, Institut International de Physique Solvay, Brussels, Belgium.)
In 2005, the president of Harvard asked why more women didn't hold tenured positions in the hard sciences at his university. One of the reasons why, he suggested, was innate differences in scientific and mathematical aptitude between the sexes.
These comments provoked Eileen Pollack - a Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Michigan - to revisit her own dreams of becoming an astrophysicist, while growing up in the 60's and 70's. Those dreams remain painful memories, but inspired her book, The Only Woman In The Room:  Why Science Is Still A Boys Club.

It chronicles her failed struggle to realize that dream, despite becoming one of the first two women to graduate - with honour - from Yale, with a bachelor degree in physics. Pollack also questions how much has changed and proposes ways to eliminate such discrimination.

Related Links

The Only Woman In the Room - Beacon Press
- New York Times Op-Ed by Prof. Pollack
Michigan Quarterly Review interview
Washington Post review
Chicago Reader review
Telegraph article on the Leaky Pipeline