While I was out running today, I was listening to NPR and I happened to catch an interview with Eileen Pollack, author of The Only Woman in the Room: Why Science is Still a Boy’s Club. The author grew up in the 1960s and ’70s dreaming of a career as a theoretical astrophysicist. Although she got little encouragement in high school, being denied the chance to take advanced courses in science and math, she somehow made her way to Yale, where she went on to graduate summa cum laude, with honors, as one of the university’s first two women to earn a bachelor of science degree in physics. Yet after all that, she gave up on her ambition to become a physicist. She became a successful fiction writer instead. Now, many years later, she has gone back to examine her own experiences and see what, if anything, had changed since she was a student.
Not a whole lot, apparently. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the time to read this book, but it did spark a memory of a former secretary whose dream was to become an electrical engineer. She was taking classes at a local university and told me about some of the obstacles she was facing, like the professor who told her the first day that she didn’t belong there.
As a history nerd, I know how much this country has accomplished. We’ve come a long way, but think how much farther along we’d be today if we used all of our talent.