Women and Science

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The first speaker was Donna Riley a professor of engineering at Smith College posed the idea that the discussion should not be about women in science, but about gender in science so the conversation will be more inclusive for all involved. She discussed the work of feminists in Science for the People and how they changed common thinking about the issue of women in STEM fields. She focused primarily on two scientists Rita Arditti and Ruth Hubbard who not only challenged the inclusion of women in science but addressed the issue of sexism that was an inherent feature in many scientific fields.

The second speaker was Amy Slaton who is a professor of history and politics at Drexel University. She pushed us to ask the questions being raised in critical disability studies, particularly with intellectual disabilities. She then talked about the recent celebration of people with aspergers and how they are sought out by employers because of their talent in the field of mathematics. These critical disability studies ask us to look at the people who are doing the glorification of a specific group. She also thinks that using critical disability studies can provide an insight into the current dynamics of various institutions.

The next speaker was Banu Subramaniam a professor of women, gender, and sexuality studies here at UMass. She explores the idea of opening up the question of just women in science to looking at women who are engaged in science and asking what their roles are. She also looks at where the research on women in science is being done and points out that it is being done by women’s studies groups particularly not by the scientific community as a whole. She then talked about the women in science for the people discussed these questions and how they influenced her view on women in science. Her thoughts on the women in science question developed through the conference are that the limitations on women in science are due to a lack of centralized discussion on women in science. She poses a very interesting theory that most of the solutions are giving women the skill to survive in the current climate instead of changing the structural dynamics to be more inclusive.

The last speaker was Angela Willey a professor of women, gender, and sexuality studies here at UMass provided a unique view on science and activism as a queer woman. She advocated moving the conversation away from how few women are in science to why there are so few women in science. She talked about the idea that the most important factor in what research gets done is who is doing the research. She provides the example of the medical research field, which is male dominated, therefore the research that is done is directed primarily towards men’s health.