Curve Ball-single gender education

Michelle Garrison garrison at
Tue Dec 16 12:36:05 EST 1997

You were lucky in your professors -- in my experience, it is mainly the
teachers who determine whether or not gender bias is going to be a
problem.  If I had gone to a women's college, I might still be in chemistry.

There was a chem elective that I wanted to take -- there was only one prof
who ever taught it, and everyone had warned me not to, that he was a sexist
pig.  Still, I thought that I should have the opportunity to take the class.
I was the only female out of about 25 students.  The professor told my
lab partner (in front of the class) on the first day to just put my name on
his (the lab partner's work) and that he (the prof) would count the grade
for both of us.  The prof then told me that he didn't expect me to be able
to do the work in the class.  When we took the exams, the prof would tell
me (again, in front of the class) that I could use my book and/or stay and
finish the exam after class if I needed to (these were NOT options given
to the other students in the class).

When I complained about the prof, I was simply told that he had tenure, and
was not going to lose his position for anything less than murdering a

When I eventually changed my major (to microbiology), it was not because
my self-esteem had suffered, or because I didn't believe I was good at
chemistry any more.  I knew then and know now that I have the intelligence
and skills to succeed in chemistry.  I left the field because the idea of
my life in a field where a man like that was valued more than I ever could
was totally repulsive.

Women are more equally represented (and sometimes over-represented) in
the biological than physical sciences.  Some people say that this is because
these are the "soft" sciences, more suited to women -- I think it is more
that women tend to find areas where they, their intelligence, and ideas,
be respected and valued.

Michelle Garrison
University of Washington
Dr. Paula J. Schlax wrote in message <34958CD9.41C6 at>...
>I wanted to throw a different perspective into this mix. I was a chem
>engineering undergrad at Clarkson University.  Somewhere between 20 and
>50 % women, depending on the year, the major, the course etc.
>As a Chem E, there were probably 30% women in my classes. There
>definitely were some  differences in the ways women asked questions
>(typically after class rather than during) or dealt with lab courses (in
>pairs, I think more often the women did the note taking and record
>keeping than the men did).  For me personally, I never felt
>uncomfortable in a class because of its composition, and I don't think,
>for the most part, the prof's showed gender bias (at least not
>intentionally). I had a lot of opportunities to work in groups on design
>projects etc., and I found that with the exception of the lazy jerks
>(always a few in a class) that self chosen groups become much more mixed
>in gender as we progressed in our studies.
>It is hard for me, coming from such a place, to understand the
>advantages of an all woman program.  Especially at the college level.
>Don't flame me, but please help me understand.  I wonder if some of the
>attrition of women in graduate school and beyond might not be a result
>of starting to deal with Gender bias after being somewhat sheltered.
>Does anyone know whether there are any statistics to support or oppose
>this proposal?
>-Paula Schlax

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