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The Only Woman in the Room: Why Science is Still A Boys' Club

The Only Woman in the Room Why Science is Still A Boys Club A bracingly honest exploration of why there are still so few women in the hard sciences mathematics engineering and computer scienceIn when Lawrence Summers then president of Harvard asked

  • Title: The Only Woman in the Room: Why Science is Still A Boys' Club
  • Author: Eileen Pollack
  • ISBN: 9780807046579
  • Page: 276
  • Format: Hardcover
  • A bracingly honest exploration of why there are still so few women in the hard sciences, mathematics, engineering, and computer scienceIn 2005, when Lawrence Summers, then president of Harvard, asked why so few women achieve tenured positions in the hard sciences, Eileen Pollack set out to find the answer In the 1970s, Pollack had excelled as one of Yale s first two womenA bracingly honest exploration of why there are still so few women in the hard sciences, mathematics, engineering, and computer scienceIn 2005, when Lawrence Summers, then president of Harvard, asked why so few women achieve tenured positions in the hard sciences, Eileen Pollack set out to find the answer In the 1970s, Pollack had excelled as one of Yale s first two women to earn a bachelor of science degree in physics But, isolated, lacking in confidence, and starved for encouragement, she abandoned her lifelong dream of becoming a theoretical physicist Years later, she thought back on her experiences and wondered what had changed in the intervening decades, and what challenges remained Based on six years of interviewing dozens of teachers and students and reviewing studies on gender bias, The Only Woman in the Room is an illuminating exploration of the cultural, social, psychological, and institutional barriers confronting women in the STEM disciplines Pollack brings to light the struggles that women in the sciences are often hesitant to admit and provides hope that changing attitudes and behaviors can bring women into fields in which they remain, to this day, seriously underrepresented.Eileen Pollack is the author of the novels Breaking and Entering a New York Times Editor s Choice selection and Paradise, New York, as well as two collections of short fiction, an award winning book of nonfiction, and two creative nonfiction textbooks Her work has appeared in Best American Essays and Best American Short Stories She is a professor on the faculty of the Helen Zell MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of Michigan She divides her time between Manhattan and Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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    1 thought on “The Only Woman in the Room: Why Science is Still A Boys' Club

    1. I won this book from LibraryThing (in exchange for an honest review). When it arrived, I had a sudden crisis of doubt. Why had I thought I wanted to read this? Was I interested a book about women in the sciences or math? What did that have to do with me? Would it, like another currently popular book, claim that all women needed to do was be more aggressive, more committed? As it turned out, I loved this book, disturbing as it is in many ways. It is a fascinating look, through examining the autho [...]

    2. Originally posted at Musings of an Incurable BookwormI'm feeling conflicted about this book. I honestly think that if I'd had a more clear picture of what the book was about going into it I might not feel as disappointed as I do. Then again, I also probably wouldn't have requested or read it in the first place.I'll start with the things that I liked, which was basically the final third of the book. I appreciated hearing from other women struggling to survive in the sciences, especially the voice [...]

    3. Um exercício de empatia, em um livro que recomendo para qualquer aluno de cursos científicos, cientista ou professor, de ambos os sexos. Uma auto-biografia da Eileen Pollack contando como ela cursou física em Yale na década de 70, o que passou para chegar lá e o que a fez se decidir por seguir a carreira de escritora e professora de inglês, ao invés da carreira científica. Com uma série de situações onde ela claramente é tratada de forma diferente dos homens que seguiam as mesmas voc [...]

    4. The last third of this book was more or less what I was hoping the whole book would be. It's an overview and dicussion of the different theories as to why there is still a lack of women in some STEM fields. The author's focus is on the upper echelons of academia -- I'm afraid that the fact that I have a tenure-track physics professorship would not interest her. She is mainly concerned about Harvard and her alma mater, Yale, and she shares the elitism of her home institution. But she has heard fr [...]

    5. I'm still collecting my thoughts on this. I could relate to the author's experience eerily well. She studied physics in Yale in 1980s, and was the only (or one of the few women) woman in the room in a lot of classes that she took. In this book she looks at her experience before and during her studies at Yale.Some of the things she brought out in her book were, that women might need more encouragement than men to study or keep studying a STEM field. There is a group of people who are encouraged t [...]

    6. Truly painful to read, and not in a good way. In the 70's, the author was one of the only two female undergrads in her class to receive a BS in physics at Yale. She relates to the reader how she had endured both overt and micro-aggressions to a degree unheard of today, quoting statements like: "Even at Yale, the boys won't date a physics major!" or "We all know one cannot be both sexy and smart." Unfortunately, the author seems to have even internalized the misogyny that she writes about ("I shu [...]

    7. As other reviewers have said here, the title is terribly misleading. The Only Woman in the Room: Why Science is still a Boy's Club implies: 1) that this is a dissertation of some sort; 2) that the author is a woman and still works in a science field. None of that is true.This was a very personal read - as I continue, I can easily see myself in it. And even though my mind has been filled with the "don't complain and work hard" mentality as an immigrant, it's impossible not to acknowledge that sex [...]

    8. I can't wait to share this book with friends and students and colleagues. Eileen Pollack, who has written a number of remarkable books of fiction and nonfiction, has taken her experience as a math/science whiz who was regularly discouraged from pursuing her intellectual dreams and spun them into true, and poignant, cultural gold. Much of the book tracks Pollack's personal trials and tribulations with honesty and sharp humor. Women who have worked in the world of men in any capacity, whether as s [...]

    9. I established when I was 7 years old that since my test scores on the state's standardized testing weren't high for math, I felt that it was eliminated before any interests even began because I wasn't "good" at it. Fast forward to the age of 12 and the theory behind conceptual math learning and I was completely lost with the yellow cubes and bars in front of me. The instructions from the teacher did not make sense and because of something as yet unidentified I could not understand the words comi [...]

    10. Summary: I found some of the author's anecdotes moving, but I was disappointed this wasn't a more research-based exploration of the problem.Although author Eileen Pollack was one of the first women to graduate from Yale with a BS in physics, she decided to pursue her love of writing instead of going on to get her PhD. Decades later, she decided to explore why so many women drop out of math, science, and engineering at every level of achievement. She briefly discusses some studies on women in sc [...]

    11. This book was near to my own experiences majoring in astrophysics and was almost hard to read at times because of my own messy breakup with the sciences. I did not continue on in astrophysics but like Pollack, questioned whether that was because I just wasn’t gifted in the subject or because I was more interested in another subject (in Pollack’s case this was writing). The Only Woman in the Room invited me to consider a third suggestion: as a woman in science, I was not encouraged and suppor [...]

    12. I received this book from a First Reads giveaway. When requesting the book, I had assumed it would be a book filled with some pages of boring data, but that it would still be an interesting, informative read. What I did not expect was the masterful and incredibly accurate account of Pollack's own arduous experience as a woman constantly trying to prove her worth in the sciences. It brings up the unfortunate reality that society still splits academia and success by gender, and Pollack's own enco [...]

    13. DNFI finished the first part of the book and I am afraid I cannot continue. The subtitle and blurb are misleading, pointing to more of a study than a biography. Even then I continued reading, but so far there seems to be no answer to the question Pollack asks (why science is still a boy's club), but rather a telling of her personal experience. As a woman in science myself, I know that it can be hard, but a lot of the examples she uses to show how ostracized felt forced (She got a B on a project [...]

    14. I'd recommend parents get this for their teenage daughters (and for the parents to read themselves!). Also for women in STEM fields or in college studying those fields. Anyone really who has a role in guiding, raising, teaching, or working with women, this is a book to read.(Note: I work for the publisher so I'm refraining from giving it a star rating)

    15. I think much of what could be better about The Only Woman in the Room: Why Science is Still a Boy's Club have been told by other reviewers, so I'll cut to the chase. The expectation is that the author, in some way or shape, will answer the question of why there is still a lack of female scientists. Reading the detailed account of Eileen Pollack of (mostly) her singular experience, which is then somehow generalized and perhaps holds true for some women, I concluded that the answer is: women have [...]

    16. I care about the under-representation of women in STEM fields, and it pains me to give a book on this topic a low rating. Pollack expertly describes many of the subtle obstacles and pervasive barriers that deter women from STEM, but These accounts were presented in the context of her own experiences, and I found many of her statements (and her own motivations) counterproductive to the stated mission of this book. Many things she said were outright insulting.The first sign that something was wron [...]

    17. If you are a scientist, a teacher, a university student or a parent, you need to read this book.Eileen Pollack crystallises so many unspoken ideas, zeroing in on some deep set problems in how we teach ideas, differentiate between boys and girls, and train the next generation of scientists and engineers. This book is full of stories of tragedy and lost opportunity in physics and astronomy - an unflinching indictment on me and all my colleagues who love this field and who claim to want to pass tha [...]

    18. This book was recommended to me by my mother who has seen my own constant doubts through the first year of my PhD. Certainly I would recommend it to women starting in research but also to researchers and supervisors of both genders. I slowed down halfway through the book as in some ways it was depressing me as I struggled through my confirmation, however, the last part of the book really addresses why talented female scientists are not managing to stay in their respective fields and this is cert [...]

    19. This book really made me think about my own experiences as a woman in science (resulting in probably the longest review I've ever written). The first two-thirds of the book is a memoir of the author's childhood and college experience as a girl who was gifted in math and science (as well as the humanities) and loved thinking about the big questions of the universe. She faces a lot of discouragement in her pre-college years, but ends up majoring in physics at Yale and becoming one of the first few [...]

    20. The description for this book is a bit misleading. The first half is Pollack's memoir of her own experiences as a student from childhood in public school in a predominantly Jewish area through college at Yale as one of the few female physics majors. The second half of the book is more in line with what I had been expecting given the description, and includes anecdata from other women who Pollack had known or interviewed from her own generation and the later generation of female science majors an [...]

    21. I'm always disappointed when broader-seeming books turn out to be primarily memoirs, and this one is a willfully exasperating memoir at that. Pollack periodically frames the story as an attempt to get at why there are so few women in science and engineering, but the vast majority of the book is about her own struggles in school as someone who got an undergraduate degree in physics from Yale in the 1970s. She periodically attempts to extrapolate to women in general from her experiences. This may [...]

    22. As many other reviewers here have pointed out, the title of this book is very misleading. It should instead be something to the effect of, "Why Elaine Pollack, despite being very smart and capable in Physics, did not go on to become a Physicist despite high academic achievement, mostly because she needed more reassurance and encouragement from her professors, which she did not get." Granted, this lack of reassurance is perhaps a factor in why women in general tend to not go on to careers in STEM [...]

    23. Eileen Pollack's "The Only Woman in the Room: Why Science Is Still a Boys' Club" is interesting enough, but for the most part, is not quite what I thought it would be. The first part of the book is more biographical than anything. Whereas it was rather interesting, it was not quite what I was expecting.Eventually the author did start exploring theories about why more women were not entering STEM fields, and that part was more interesting, but the explorations of these theories were not quite as [...]

    24. I didn't expect this book to be so relevant to my work as a high school chemistry teacher and secondary science department head. While I don't have specific memories of discrimination or discouragement in my science classes as a student, this book provides plenty of food for thought on how students of all backgrounds, particularly women and minorities, require support and encouragement in persevering through STEM classes. The lack of role models, particularly at the post secondary level can have [...]

    25. I really wish I had read this before I went to college, though I was shocked by how relevant it still is (for me) today. For the majority of the book the narrative is just that: the author's personal story, not a data-driven analysis of why there aren't many women in the STEM fields. Through her own story and various anecdotes from others, she sheds light on some of the subtleties of being a woman in these fields in a way a McKinsey study can't. This book is not an answer to the problem but inst [...]

    26. A fantastic book that should be required reading for female undergraduates. This book resonated with me in so many ways--I began college as a math major, struggled in a class I did not have the background for, and switched to a safe course load in English and history. I love my career, but this book made me wonder what would have happened if I had stayed in the sciences. Half memoir and half investigative reporting, Pollack raises questions I've been afraid to ask myself for years. This book is [...]

    27. 4.5 starsWow, yeah, OK. Talk about reading the perfect book at the perfect time. I definitely related waaaaaay too hard to much of the author's life story and the reasoning behind why women don't go into math and science. See, I'm at a bit of a crossroads right now between pursuing writing (I've always and forever told myself I want to be a writer) and pursuing physics (specifically astrophysics), so on the one hand, I found it fascinating to get Pollack's story from both sides of the fence and [...]

    28. J'aime l'approche de l'auteure: nous raconter son parcours scolaire en science, son "échec" puis retourner sur les lieux de la tragédie. Je ne peux que donner un 5, car c'est un livre qui a poussé ma réflexion et mon introspection.

    29. Really excellent combo memoir think piece about why girls are turned off from pursuing careers in science. Great writing. Fascinating to learn her story.

    30. A Wonderful, but depressing, book about how society subtly still teaches girls (and minorities) that they are not cut out to succeed in science and math. Part memoir, part non-fiction treatise on why girls still feel less welcome in the STEM fields, Eileen Pollack describes her own time as the first female bachelor of science physics major at Yale and how it lead her on a journey all these years later to understand what it was about science culture that caused her not to continue on to a physics [...]

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