In your junior high science classes, how many female scientific pioneers were in your textbook? I doubt more that there were more than a handful. In freshmen geometry class, did you learn about any famous female mathematicians? Probably not. I did not know about Sally Ride until I graduated from high school and even today, I could not tell you about any legendary female mathematicians. Pioneering women have been historically absent from all school subjects, not just science and mathematics, since the dawn of the schoolhouse.STEM

Even these days, when more women are going to college than men in this country, there is still a lack of women entering science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) career fields. The reasons for the interest gap are complicated, according to Christi Corbett, senior researcher for for the American Association of University of Women.

“The direction of scientific inquiry is influenced by the people doing the work,” Corbett told me over the phone. Women comprise of about only 20% of the bachelor’s degrees in STEM-related fields. One can concur that women must then only make about 20% of the decisions in, say, scientific research.

Corbett helped compile Why So Few?—a comprehensive report that tries to solve why so few women are entering STEM fields.

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WomenGirlsLadies made a return visit to UMKC last week, thanks to the invitation from Women’s Center Director Brenda Bethman. Rather than a single event, this year’s Starr Symposium featured a series of community conversations about the “Work/Life Balance in a Woman’s Nation. Deborah Siegel, Courtney Martin, Kristal Brent Zook, and I kicked off the event with our WomenGirlsLadies panel, where we provided intergenerational perspectives on work and life choices.

“Nobody loves you better because you have used yourself up for them,” was just one of the points that resonated with the crowd.

Immersed in conversation about when we felt powerful

Here’s what Rita Arens has to say about the event over on BlogHer:

I tend to lack a governor. I would write myself into an early grave if it weren’t for my family.

Balance, which I’ve written about before, is tough whether or not you live with other people. I don’t think for one minute that single people don’t have balance issues — in fact, if I were living alone, I would actually have more balance issues than I do now, because I would have to depend on myself to tear me away from the blinking screen . . . I am trying lately to avoid using myself up.

Rita came up to me after the panel and told me that she wished she had had someone like me to talk to when she was 15. I told her that I wish I had had Gloria Feldt to talk to when I was 15!

Here’s what Talyn Helman has to say in her Young Feminist’s Point of View.

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Three of our WomenGirlsLadies inter-generational panel members, Deborah Siegel, Courtney Martin, and I (we were missing Kristal Brent Zook, who couldn’t change her teaching schedule to appear on the show) had a chance to talk with Eldridge and Co. host Ronnie Eldridge on her CUNY television show.

Click the photo above to see the video. We covered the inter-generational waterfront, from the state of the women’s movement, what happens when feminists disagree about political candidates, how we’re going to get work-life balance policies and actual practice, and what we all have in common to how the women’s movement has changed men too.

Our next public event will be Sept. 28 at the University of Missouri Kansas City. We’d love to come speak to your group too! Contact me and I’ll be delighted to give you more information.

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Recently I was at the SeeJaneDo conference where I heard this story. I was so moved by it that I immediately had to include it in my forthcoming book about women’s relationship with power–No Excuses, to be published in October–despite having already having turned in what were supposed to be the last changes.

It’s said that when a baby elephant is being trained, she is tied to a post almost immediately after birth. During the first few weeks of life, she attempts to break free of her restraints, but she’s not strong enough. So she comes to believe she can’t get away from what is holding her back even after she has grown large and plenty powerful to uproot the post entirely. As a consequence, even as an adult, she remains tied to the post due to an internally motivated behavior that is no longer rooted in external reality.

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[caption id="attachment_1493" align="alignright" width="209" caption="Rita and 4 generations"][/caption]

Thanks to my great friend and an activist who has always put her convictions into action, Rita Harkins Dickinson for this guest post. She wrote this moving personal essay after attending a WomenGirlsLadies inter-generational panel.

After attending the Feldt-Barbanell Women of the World Lecture at Arizona State University recently, I have questioned if I can honestly call myself a feminist. I always thought of myself as one, but do I deserve to wear the badge? The remarkable women on the panel had defining moments that justified them considering themselves feminists. I don’t have one “aha” moment. My sense of feminism is more organic.

My childhood was glorious. I am a Boomer, but June Cleaver was only a fantasy character on television. Conversely, I didn’t have militant women in my life either. Women surrounding me were strong, independent, and smart. Although our family is small, I had eight significant female relatives within reach: my mother, my grandmothers, my great-grandmother, my aunt, two great aunts and a great-great aunt.

Most of the significant influences in my childhood were subtle, yet extremely fond memories. I remember attending graduate classes with my mother, taking colored pencils and newsprint (we weren’t allowed to have coloring books – they would stifle creativity). We spent a great deal of time outdoors; we went to the beach, and we camped every summer. None of this is remarkable, except that my mother had survived polio when pregnant with my older brother, resulting in paralysis from the waist-down.

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Obama’s “Promoting Strong Fathers” speech and town hall last week was not just great role modeling and a politically smart thing to do, it had some very poignant moments that scratched the surface, albeit gently, of the president’s quest to know his father. He came to terms with that missing piece of his own identity long ago, as chronicled in his book, Dreams of My Father.

Still, I couldn’t help but feel sadness in my heart when he talked about his absent father, even as he expressed appreciation for his mother’s struggles and how his loving grandparents cared for him.

[caption id="attachment_3665" align="aligncenter" width="431" caption="L-R: Gloria, Deborah, Kristal, Courtney"][/caption]

I was watching the town hall because fathers were much on my mind as I prepared for yesterday’s “Dads, Dudes and Doing It” panel, along with WomenGirlsLadies co-panelists, Courtney Martin, Kristal Brent Zook, and Deborah Siegel-Acevedo. Together, we span five decades in age and we speak through both gender and generational lens.

[caption id="attachment_3666" align="alignleft" width="269" caption="My friends called my father "Big Max" because it described both his height--6' 3"--and his personality"][/caption]

We had a lot of fun as we always do with our panels, but it was nevertheless emotional for each of us in different ways to be talking about our fathers. I’m the panel’s senior citizen, and I was missing my daddy who died almost 15 years ago. I speculated that he never connected his personal declaration that his daughters could do “anything their pretty little heads desire” with the political movement of women that a decade or two later would turn the political system upside down to make sure we actually could aspire without legal impediment to whatever heights we wanted.

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While in some quarters gender wars continue to rage, Father’s Day 2009 is bringing us stories of dramatic changes in the politics of marriage, relationships, and parenthood.

USA Today calls it a “New daditude”: Today’s fathers are hands-on, pressure off and says:

Today’s fathers may well take parenting as seriously as their mates, but unlike many moms, dads don’t view it as a competitive sport. Instead, the new attitude of 21st-century fatherhood is hands-on and involved, but with a hint of playfulness

Hmm. I wonder how moms feel about that comparison. A little, um, competitive maybe? Check out this article–it takes on exactly the kind of changing gender roles issues we WomenGirsLadies will discuss Saturday, June 20 at 2pm at the Brooklyn Museum. It’s called “Dads, Dudes, and Doing It” and we want your voice in the conversation! All the infos’s here. Come on down!

And if you’re not in the New York area, tell us what you think anyway–leave your comments here and I’ll be sure to share them with the audience on Saturday.

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Hello! If you thought maybe the answer to this question I posed a couple of days ago is “yes”, take a gander at how the NY observer wrote up the WomenGirlsLadies’ upcoming event March 18 @ the 92Y Tribeca! Elizabeth Hines is the fourth member of our panel. Come join us. Bring your thoughts about feminism’s unfinished business–and your man-bat, just in case someone from the Observer shows up 🙂

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What’s a WomanGirlLady? Each member and (plural) the whole intergenerational panel that goes on the road together. Last week it was Courtney Martin and Kristal Brent Zook plus the amazing Maria Teresa Peterson (head of Voto Latino, who stepped admirably in for our regular–and also amazing–fourth, Deborah Siegel) at the University of Missouri Kansas City,…

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