Dimensions, May/June 2005—Closing the Gap: Reaching Female Audiences in Science Centers

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May/June 2005

This issue was already planned when Harvard University president Lawrence Summers, addressing a January National Bureau of Economic Research conference on diversity in the science and engineering (S&E) workforce, set off a media storm. Speculating on why so few women hold high-level academic positions in S&E, Summers cited, in this order, the time commitment required in top jobs, different “availability of aptitude at the high end,” and “different socialization and patterns of discrimination.” Female attendees took offense, and Summers later apologized. Ironically, other presenters at the same NBER conference offered not only strong arguments for female intellectual ability in and commitment to science, but also suggestive evidence about gender bias and the challenges of S&E careers. What does all this have to do with science centers? Awareness of barriers is a first step toward changing a system that is insufficiently female-friendly. Next comes understanding of what does work for girls and women, and why. In this issue, we learn how museum professionals are addressing bias and developing programs that help female audiences make a positive connection with science.

A Bridge to Technology: Designing a Program That Attracts Girls, by Linda Kekelis, Etta Heber and Jeri Countryman
• Barriers to Choice: How Adolescent Girls View Science Centers, by Jody Koke
• Building Girls: The Science of Home Improvement, by Kristie Maher
• A Welcoming Committee: Engaging Adult Females in Informal Science, by Dale McCreedy
• A Scientist and a Scholar, by Kristine Molina
• Social Science: Observing Women and Girls in the Museum, by Dave Taylor
• Women’s Workshops at Miraikan, by Satoko Inoue
• A Richer Version: Broadening Women’s View of Technology, by Lena Embertson
• The Universe of Making Things: Toward a Female-Friendly Technology, by Cornelia Brunner
• Women Guiding Women, by Traudel Weber

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