Building Two-Way Bridges:
A Conversation about Gender and Science

Sponsored by The Greater Philadelphia Women's Studies Consortium

On February 21, 2002, the Greater Philadelphia Women’s Studies Consortium hosted a seminar for faculty in the sciences and women’s studies from a dozen area colleges and universities. Held at Bryn Mawr College, the discussion of areas of shared interest was facilitated by Anne Fausto-Sterling. This website is provided by the Center for Science in Society at Bryn Mawr College and Serendip to faciliate continuing conversation about issues related to gender and science.

A summary of the seminar discussion is provided below. All participants are warmly invited to add their corrections and comments, using an on-line forum area. They and others are also encouraged to use the forum area for further reflections and to provide additional resources. For additional information, contact Anne Dalke or Paul Grobstein.

Summary of Seminar Discussion
(Prepared by Anne Dalke)

It was clear, as we introduced ourselves to one another, that "people came with different jobs to do," a range of concerns which could be grouped into three different areas. We brought with us

  1. questions about the meager participation of women in science classrooms (especially the physical sciences, computer sciences and math); this is the "women in ---" question;
  2. questions about science pedagogy (matters of cognitive values and approach that involve reconceptualizing what sciences is and how it works–which will eventually change the kinds of students who go into it, and so affect (1) above;
  3. questions about poor communication between the sciences and women’s studies programs, and a desire for new strategies for building bridges between the two (this includes an historical awareness of both the impoverishment of women’s studies programs which are lacking in science and the hostility of the sciences to feminist critiques).

We gave attention to these topics in reverse order, focusing first on the need for curriculum development and interdisciplinary alliances among the humanities, social sciences and sciences.

We asked these questions:

We made these claims:

We offered one another these strategies for teaching "science with a different edge":

We ended with a brief consideration of the paucity of women in new fields such as computer science, which are struggling particularly with matters of gender equity. What do we need to understand about the history of the engagement of different kinds of people in different courses of study, and about the psychology of such engagements? (Why might certain students be drawn into programming, for instance?) How can we alter cultures which do not seem welcoming to many women students? How create an atmosphere conducive to learning, how intervene in peer-based hostility both in classrooms which teachers can somewhat control (!?) and in 24-hour open environments?

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