Questions for ‘A woman’s place is in science’

Brooke Best is a botanist (plant scientist) at the Botanical Research Institute of Texas. There she studies plant biodiversity and helps manage an academic journal and book series. In this image, she is scoping out prairies to use as a template for a novel “green roof” design. “I really enjoy memorizing rap songs (or any songs) with lots of very fast lyrics,” she says. “Must be the word lover in me!”

David Fisk


Before Reading

1.     Name three scientists. Did you name any female scientists? Why or why not?          

2.     Do boys and girls have different abilities in math and science? Explain your answer.

During Reading:

1.     Why were groups of girls designing moon landers in a Nashville ballroom?

2.     In 2014, what percentage of chemists were women?

3.     In the 1970s and ‘80s many girls had to take “home economics” in school. What did those classes teach?

4.     Why were women scientists rare in the 1800s?

5.     Some people think that boys naturally do better than girls in science tasks. What does the evidence say?

6.     Which are more likely to major in science while they are in college, men or women? Are most college graduates men or women?

7.     What are stereotypes? Now list at least two things you learned from the story about the effect that stereotypes about women in science can have.

8.     What happened at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1995? What prompted this investigation (based on the story) and name three things the investigation turned up.

9.     What two pieces of advice does Debra Elmegreen give to girls who want to work in science?

10.     Why does Debra Elmegreen recommend that young scientists get involved in science fairs?

11.     When is failure not necessarily a bad thing?

After Reading

1.     Using evidence from the story, explain why there is not an equal number of women and men in most fields of science. Do you see that as a problem? Why or why not? Explain your reasoning.

2.     Imagine that an adult told you that a person of your gender or ethnic background should not be a scientist. Or doctor. Or athlete. Or musician. Or teacher. How would you respond?

3.     The story talks about the risks of relying on deeply ingrained ideas. Name two other types of other deeply ingrained ideas that you see in the society around you. Choose one, and working with a partner, talk about how you would design a campaign to fight against it. Consider what research (including statistics) you will need to make a case for the ideas you will want to promote.


1.         In the United States, there are 23,557,000 scientists and engineers. Using data from the story, calculate how many of these scientists and engineers are men and how many are women.