Carol E. Van Aken

  • Women and the Scientific Professions

    The MIT Symposium on American Women in Science and Engineering

    Jacquelyn A. Mattfeld and Carol E. Van Aken

    In the decade 1950-1960 the number of women in engineering declined from 1.2% to.8%; in the sciences, from 11% to 9%...

    What began as a local meeting to consider career problems and possibilities for M.I.T.'s women students quickly expanded into a major national conference bringing together a distinguished group of contributors whose papers bow comprise this volume. Women and the Scientific Professions considers the personal, social, and economic factors involved in a woman's professional career. Divided into four major sections, the topics treated are The Commitment Required of a woman Entering a Scientific Profession, Who Wants Women in the Scientific Professions?, The Case for and Against the Employment of Women, and Closing the Gap.

    In the decade 1950-1960 the number of women among industrial and scientific technicians dropped from 18% to 12%. In chemistry, earth science, chemical, metallurgical, mining, and civil engineering there were fewer women in 1960 than in 1950! In 1960 only 7% of the physicians and surgeons employed in the United States were women. In the 1950's women received 10% of the doctoral degrees in this country compared to almost 15% in 1920. At each level of educational attainment, and in each field, the median salary of men is considerably higher than that of women. These are but a sampling of the statistics presented in Women and the Scientific Professions, but the statistics do not say enough. The brief quotations that follow will serve to demonstrate the sweep of the problem as well as the scope of the book:

    “... it seems clear that, to effect a change in the position of women in American society, one cannot confine social action to women themselves, but must reach men as well. Women will not seek higher degrees in any great number in fields like the sciences and engineering, if by so doing they are apt to be punished socially and psychologically, instead of being rewarded as men are, for their efforts and achievements.” –Dr. Alice S. Rossi

    ... “the problems facing professional women stem from the fact that these women are expected to enter a masculinely oriented working world as men.....” –Dr. Bruno Bettelheim

    “The observation has been made that in no society have so many women devoted themselves full time to children and the home in America today.” –Dr. James R. Killian, Jr.

    “To date, this country has, in my opinion, proceeded on the theory that one does not really expect and significant contribution from women in science.” –Dr. Mary I. Bunting

    “Any mention of the lasting function and importance of sexual differences is quickly taken to mean a renewed emphasis on inequality or a reactionary insistence that women should keep their place as defined by men. But if I insist on talking about certain differences, it is because I feel strongly that it is no longer the self-preservation of either sex that is at stake but the preservation of the race. Technological and political developments make it necessary that women should take their place firmly in the sciences as well as in the politics if the future.” –Dr. Erik H. Erikson

    “It seems clear that the status of women scientists and engineers is higher in other countries than in the United States, and that the rate of advancement of women is much slower in the United States than in the East.” –Dr. Dorothy M. Simon

    The urgency and timeliness of the subject matter, and the personal quality of some of the accounts, and the thorough documentation of others combine to make Women and the Scientific Professions a provocative and important addition to the literature, one that is certain to be welcomed by the general reader – men and women – as it will be by the social and behavioral scientist.

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