Play brings awareness to gender bias in science


Gioia De Cari presented her play in Memorial Auditorium on Oct. 17.

One woman played 33 characters Thursday night as part of her award-winning play, performed in Memorial Auditorium to a crowd of more than 450.

Gioia De Cari performed “Truth Values: One Girl’s Romp Through M.I.T.’s Male Math Maze,” a free event open to the public, won the Overall Excellence Award for Best Solo Show at the New York Fringe Festival in 2009.

De Cari wrote the play as a response to a statement by Lawrence Summers, former president of Harvard University. During his presidency, Summers suggested innate gender differences as the reason for women’s poor representation in the sciences.

The play was sponsored by the Women’s Center, the office of social equity, the department of mathematics and STEM-UP PA, a university partnership for the advancement of academic women in Pennsylvania. De Cari’s performance followed her experience in the mathematics doctoral program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she faced discrimination and isolation due to her sex.

According to Kate McGivney, professor of mathematics and principal investigator for STEM-UP PA, the goal was to show the lack of female representation in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) career fields.

“The goal was to raise awareness that there is gender bias in the sciences, to acknowledge it and to have this play serve as a catalyst so we can start having discussions with students,” McGivney said.

Of all physics doctorate awarded in the United States, only one-fifth go to women, the New York Times reported Oct. 3 and only 14 percent of U.S. physics professors are female.

According to McGivney, STEM fields are a great career choice in today’s society.

“I think that there are a lot of jobs in that area. I think that our workforce needs a talented pool of people in the area,” McGivney said.

So why are there so few women in these fields? McGivney attributes it partially to a lack of role models.

“There aren’t a lot of women in the position so younger women maybe don’t see it as a career opportunity, they don’t see themselves because the people that are in these roles, they don’t look like them,” McGivney said.

A study published last summer by Yale University; determined professors at six major universities were more inclined to hire a man with a STEM degree than a woman.

When a female applicant was hired, her salary was set almost $4,000 lower than her male counterparts.

Stephanie Erdice, director of the Women’s Center, said the magnitude of the STEM field makes it important for women to become involved in those careers.

“Science, engineering, technology, math—they affect every woman on the planet in one way or another. And if they aren’t there making those big decisions, and if they aren’t there in higher education recruiting and retaining and educating and mentoring women that are going to be in some of those great decision-making areas, then we’re losing out. Everyone’s losing out,” Erdice said.

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