Environmental and social barriers restrict women in science, tech, engineering, and math.

Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (PDF) is a new, publicly-accessible research report by AAUW that “presents in-depth yet accessible profiles of eight key research findings that point to environmental and social barriers – including stereotypes, gender bias and the climate of science and engineering departments in colleges and universities – that continue to block women’s participation and progress in science, technology, engineering, and math.”

The report is quite comprehensive, and summarizes and integrates studies from different research areas. At the end of each chapter are practical recommendations based on research findings. Here is a list of the detailed chapters: Chapter 1: Women and Girls in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics; Chapter 2: Beliefs about Intelligence; Chapter 3: Stereotypes; Chapter 4: Self-Assessment; Chapter 5: Spatial Skills; Chapter 6: The College Student Experience; Chapter 7: University and College Faculty; Chapter 8: Implicit Bias; Chapter 9: Workplace Bias; Chapter 10: Recommendations.

Commentary in the blogosphere:

17 Responses to “Environmental and social barriers restrict women in science, tech, engineering, and math.”

  1. dayita Says:

    There is a related report I found referenced today in the NY Times (of all places!) called, “Why Women Leave”, which is, predictably enough, about why women leave the scientific and engineering workforce. I could only give you the summary of the summary because you must pay in order to dwnload the actual paper, but the NYT link is:


    This is an important topic I think, and I’m not sure there are any easy answers…

  2. urbia Says:

    To me, this blog post is an understatement.

    I speak as a woman of colour that’s been (and probably still being) investigated for a crime I never committed. I worked for a game company owned by a white male rich enough to send himself into outer space for leisurely purposes. Because I stood up for the rights of visible minorities and women by calling out the work environment as potentially toxic, my career there was sabotaged and I was ‘laid off.’ The gaming industry is small so it wouldn’t be very hard for one individual, with the assistance of law enforcement, to have me blacklisted because I’m an ‘activist.’

    Nevermind that being a woman and going into a male-dominated industry does not immediately make one an ‘activist’ or a ‘feminist’ by default – it’s just seen that way by sexists in the process of othering someone that’s different and assertive.

    Because I discovered this investigation and talked openly of it, people in my personal network, and possibly beyond, are at risk of being charged of obstruction of justice. It was hinted at me a while ago to feign a mental illness – probably, I think, to get them all the hook in the most convenient way as possible. However, I refuse to pretend I’m schizophrenic, and I’m, to this day, working on getting back into the industry for employment and to fulfill my dreams of being a game designer or developer. But the investigation, being the mess that it is, still continues, and I’m not even exactly sure what people are trying to charge me with – or if they’re simply using this as an excuse to continue monitoring me and my Internet activities.

    How’s that for “environmental and social barriers”?

  3. urbia Says:

    By the way, I’ll add that it’s quite possibly turned into an international incident. I was just traveling a few weeks ago and the investigation was definitely taking place across borders as well. Same with an earlier trip a year ago. And as I wrote before, I’ve been through many parts of Asia. Who knows how long it’s been going on. It’s a lot of commotion for something that was never committed, just, “Oh, she seems like an activist.”

  4. Restructure! Says:

    Thanks, urbia, for fighting for us. <3 You are very brave.

    Thank you also for sharing your story.

    My blog post title is an understatement, but it's still much more direct than the report's title. Sadly, people like to title things euphemistically with "women in STEM fields" instead of "sexism in STEM fields", as if the problem is “women”.

  5. urbia Says:

    “Sadly, people like to title things euphemistically with ‘women in STEM fields’ instead of ‘sexism in STEM fields’, as if the problem is ‘women’.”

    Yeah, I’ll agree that wording is very subtle but can be powerful. But I’m optimistic that once people begin to notice these subtle things, their eyes will open to a lot more. We just have to be consistent in pointing out things like this when they arise.

  6. Restructure! Says:


    Maybe you can write a guest post for The Border House, which was recruiting writers, at least in December 2009. But that also might make your personal situation worse.

    Example of an interesting Border House post: Are women “too smart” for a career in the game industry?

  7. urbia Says:

    Thanks for the suggestion, Restructure. But my situation isn’t one that’s just confined to what happened at the game company. It’s ballooned into something huge.

    At the moment, I think we’re kind of stalled at a stalemate, and while it sure is annoying to me, it’s not like it’s really doing me that much harm. And I can continue working toward getting into the industry.

  8. urbia Says:

    Furthermore, what crossed my mind was that this situation existed before that game company incident. The events on the job might have only made things worse, not actually started them. It’s very complicated, and it’s not the type of story that I could fit into a blog post.

    Basically, the gist of it is this. I found out about the investigation, went to the hospital at suggestion I just ‘play along,’ but then I refused to take medication that I knew I didn’t need.

    However, because I left a paper trail of my visit, the investigators took advantage of this and communicated with me “through” my supposed “mental illness,” probably in the hopes that if I went to the public, my story wouldn’t be believed or make sense. It was their way of sort of isolating the target so that I had to just ‘take’ their threats and insinuations through music played in places they knew I would be at during a certain time, seemingly random YouTube clips they had friends send me (when previously, they wouldn’t do that – they suddenly started sending them all at once).

    While I was travelling, people I met abroad dropped hints that they knew of this investigation. For instance, someone conveniently hinted that terrorists will sometimes hide things in their watches, and in another incident, my watch went missing.

    The investigators actually ‘talked’ to me through my laptop when I found out about them and wrote notes to them on my Notepad. They moved my cursor from line to line if they wanted clarification of something I was telling them. Not random places either. In each case where the cursor moved to, I hadn’t been exactly clear enough, so I edited my note.

    Of course, unsurprisingly, my laptop got destroyed in some form of cover-up. It started spitting random sounds and I took it to a shop (where, of course, people dropped more hints of the investigation). And the damned thing broke down.

    It’s both just frustrating and annoying, these people breaking into my home, covering up things, trying to intimidate and isolate. I even called the local cops and volunteered to take a lie detector test so they’d leave me alone. All they did was drop hints too and suggest I visit a psychiatrist.

    I’m Canadian-born, live in Ottawa, and this type of ridiculousness is still happening in our country.

  9. urbia Says:

    Hah, I just got another threat to my career after I wrote this. :D

  10. Restructure! Says:

    The investigators actually ‘talked’ to me through my laptop when I found out about them and wrote notes to them on my Notepad. They moved my cursor from line to line if they wanted clarification of something I was telling them. Not random places either. In each case where the cursor moved to, I hadn’t been exactly clear enough, so I edited my note.

    One time when I was using Windows on my old desktop, my cursor was moving by itself in a way that looked like somebody was screwing with me. It was really scary. I thought that my Windows desktop was hacked by racist vigilantes because I blog about “white people” and white privilege. After all, normally when people hack into your computer, they don’t want you to know about it, and if a hacker did that, s/he is probably doing it as a method of terrorism, to scare you into silence.

    However, since my Windows box’s internet connection was only through an external usb wireless card, I removed the wireless card. The cursor movements persisted, so I knew that it wasn’t someone remotely controlling my desktop, since at that point, it was impossible for my computer to be connected to the internet or any network. So it was a false alarm. Although I couldn’t restart my computer through the Start Menu because the cursor wouldn’t let me, I did a hard reboot, and then it was fine.

    Did you try disabling the Internet connection?

    I think that was at least the third time I’ve seen the phantom cursor phenomenon, but they were always in Windows. The first time I saw it, it was somebody else’s computer, and it was equally frightening.

    I think if you want to be sure that that specific incident was hackers instead of OS malfunction, or to prevent future situations like that, you should up your computer security. Use Linux, encrypt your data, use strong passwords/passphrases and open-source software (possibly compiling from source, if you want to be anal), etc. If you strictly follow computer security practices, then it gives you more peace of mind. (Then again, computer security experts also act the most paranoid.)

  11. urbia Says:

    If the cursor had moved about randomly in different documents, on multiple occasions, I wouldn’t have suspected that I was being hacked by an investigator. This only happened in specific documents that I made in Notepad in which the content had to do with the investigation.

  12. thelady Says:

    In my college dorm I had someone hack into my instant messager and type as if they were me. I assume it was someone I knew because they didn’t type anything mean spirited they just said some flirty things to the guying I was chatting with. I signed up for a different screen name and it never happened again. I’ve accused some of my male friends who were possibly smart enough to do it but they denied it. Till this day no one I know has confessed to doing it.

  13. thelady Says:

    Also it is possible for someone to remotely take over your PC and move your mouse, our IT department does it at work sometimes when they are installing something.

  14. urbia Says:

    I think due to a prisoner’s dilemma sort of situation, people led me to believe this is what happened in an attempt to cover up the truth. I put that possibility out there and people sort of ‘played along,’ but that theory falls apart because I believe I was being investigated before I even met the people I accused of hacking me.

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