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Survey Finds Two-Thirds of Americans Can’t Name a Famous Woman Scientist

Posted May 11, 2009 12:00 AM by Sharkles

A recent survey called Women, Science and Success: The New Face of Innovation found that 65% of Americans cannot name even one famous female scientist. Additionally, the survey also found that 74% of Americans believe that women are underrepresented in science-related fields.

In our current economic climate, Americans are expressing concern about the impact of the underrepresentation of women in science. This concern is one of the reasons behind the L'Oreal USA commissioned survey. The company hopes to bring awareness to the important contributions made by women in science, and encourage more women to pursue science-related careers.

L'Oreal USA enlisted Opinion Research to conduct a telephone survey of 1,000 Americans in April 2009. Some of the survey's findings regarding scientific research and discovery include:

  • Forty-eight percent of Americans feel that the United States lags behind other countries in investing in scientific research, development and discovery.
  • Eighty-seven percent of people feel that scientific research, development and discovery lead to innovation and invention that would contribute to growth of the U.S. economy.
  • Eighty-eight percent believe that if the U.S. invested more resources into scientific research, development and discovery, it would generate job growth.

With regard to women in science, the survey found that nearly all Americans (97%) felt that women are capable of making significant contributions. Eighty-seven percent of respondents even said that more women are needed in science-related fields to ensure scientific and technological progress.

The Women, Science and Success: The New Face of Innovation survey also said that many Americans see a danger in not encouraging women in science. Fifty-nine percent of survey participants said that the underrepresentation of women in scientific fields could hinder U.S. scientific and economic growth.

Recommended Solutions

Seven out of ten participants surveyed believe that the U.S government and corporations should invest additional resources to encourage women to pursue scientific careers.

"For society to meet the scientific challenges of the 21st century, we need to do more to fully engage the contributions of all citizens, particularly women, in science-related fields…We need our best and brightest minds advancing research, making discoveries and helping to stimulate the economy. Women are a pivotal part of that progress," said Laurent Attal, President and CEO L'Oreal USA.

Do you have a favorite woman scientist? Make her known - L'Oreal has teamed up with the UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology and created a webpage of twenty famous women scientists and provide a poll to vote for your favorite (with the option to add your favorite if she isn't listed) – click here to vote!


Resources:

http://sev.prnewswire.com/retail/20090507/NY1284107052009-1.html

http://www.newscientist.com/special/women-in-science-2009-intro

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#1

Re: Survey Finds Two-Thirds of Americans Can’t Name a Famous Woman Scientist

05/11/2009 11:23 AM

Can any American name a famous female that is not:

· A model

· A Singer

· A wrestler

· A porn star

· A movie star

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#2

Re: Survey Finds Two-Thirds of Americans Can’t Name a Famous Woman Scientist

05/11/2009 2:34 PM

Can you remove the requirement that she be famous?

Grace Hopper Adm USN

And did it all in heels in a man's mans world

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#3

Re: Survey Finds Two-Thirds of Americans Can’t Name a Famous Woman Scientist

05/11/2009 5:10 PM

Can any American name a famous person that is not:

· A model

· A Singer

· A wrestler

· A porn star

· A movie star

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#4

Re: Survey Finds Two-Thirds of Americans Can’t Name a Famous Woman Scientist

05/11/2009 11:00 PM

Well the first female that comes to my mind is madame Curie after that it is blank.

You cannot blame it all on how knowledgeable the American people are.

It seems to me also that the female scientists are under represented in the media/history books/scientific publications.

so does this mean the scientific community are run by male chauvinistic pigs?

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#5
In reply to #4

Re: Survey Finds Two-Thirds of Americans Can’t Name a Famous Woman Scientist

05/12/2009 2:48 AM

I think you should read the following link...before...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Curie

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#6

Re: Survey Finds Two-Thirds of Americans Can’t Name a Famous Woman Scientist

05/12/2009 4:21 AM

I wonder how many male scientists the same surveyed people could name. One, maybe two at the most (Einstein followed by Watson or Oppenheimer would be my guess)?

It's not about women, it's about the horrible state of education in general and science education in particular.

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#7
In reply to #6

Re: Survey Finds Two-Thirds of Americans Can’t Name a Famous Woman Scientist

05/12/2009 7:16 AM

Watson... who the hell is Watson?

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#8
In reply to #7

Re: Survey Finds Two-Thirds of Americans Can’t Name a Famous Woman Scientist

05/12/2009 8:59 AM
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#13
In reply to #7

Re: Survey Finds Two-Thirds of Americans Can’t Name a Famous Woman Scientist

05/12/2009 12:01 PM

Sherlock Holmes' sidekick of course.

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#21
In reply to #7

Re: Survey Finds Two-Thirds of Americans Can’t Name a Famous Woman Scientist

01/27/2010 8:48 PM

lmao!!!

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Anonymous Poster
#20
In reply to #6

Re: Survey Finds Two-Thirds of Americans Can’t Name a Famous Woman Scientist

01/27/2010 8:47 PM

agreed... newton is another popular one

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#9

Re: Survey Finds Two-Thirds of Americans Can’t Name a Famous Woman Scientist

05/12/2009 9:05 AM

Most Americans can't find their country on a map, just ask Miss Teen South Carolina (or whatever she was) so I believe that we should invest more money in trying to not be idiots, not in encouraging women to be scientists, especially since they can already be scientists if they want to. It isn't like my high school chemistry teacher had a "no girls allowed" sign on his door. My chem-e graduating class was 50% women.

My company is very small (around 12 people), we are all engineers, and only two of them are women. They are very capable at their job and I enjoy working with them and can trust them to get things done correctly and on time. Is this 17% representation enough or should we go out and just willy-nilly hire another 8 women to get us up to the "proper" 50/50 split? What if there is a more qualified male candidate?

Curie was my first response but I know plenty of non-famous women scientists/engineers. I think we should invest more money in making betomachine a rich engineer.

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#10
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Re: Survey Finds Two-Thirds of Americans Can’t Name a Famous Woman Scientist

05/12/2009 10:22 AM

I think you are being a tad ridiculous when you state that "Most Americans can't find their country on a map..." If you are going to sample somebody, try not to use a pageant girl or a celebrity, we already know that some of those people aren't the brightest people on the planet. They are popular for their looks, not their intelligence.

I don't think this article was meant to state that a 50/50 distribution is necessary just because it shows gender neutrality. I think Sharkles is just pointing out that female scientists are underrepresented as compared to males. It is a hot topic in science related fields about gender biasing. I don't think that this is done on purpose. Technology has been a male dominant field of study and career for a long time and is just starting to introduce females.

In a generation where women are broadening their horizons and making solid careers for themselves, there are still those people (men and women) who believe that a woman's place is in the house. And even those who don't believe that women should be home-dwellers sometimes make slight comments that indicate that it is a womens job to clean the house or take care of the kids. It is attitudes like this that are suppressing the women population to not achieve such high aspirations in the workplace. And for some it works the opposite. I am one of those girls that turn skepticism into the persistence to work hard and achieve high goals. Even some of my engineering friends (that are males) like to make gender-based discriminatory comments that they don't necessarily believe, but the act of merely stating them shows a mindset that is flawed. It is the girls who have the intelligence to be great and are easily discouraged that suffer.

I am in no way saying that you are one of these people or that there is a majority of people who do this. I am merely stating that these attitudes exist, whether they are intentional or not, they still have a strong impact in todays society. (I am sorry this comment was so long, but I got into a passionate tangent somehow...)

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#16
In reply to #10

Re: Survey Finds Two-Thirds of Americans Can’t Name a Famous Woman Scientist

05/12/2009 6:02 PM

I'm trying to not come off as a boorish man here...

You are right, I was being (more than) a tad ridiculous and I mis-quoted the question, it was 20% of Americans that can't find their country on a map. This isn't my favorite topic in the whole wide world and causes me to be a little sarcastic.

I also agree, there is still plenty of gender-bashing in the world today, in fact I have probably been guilty of it before and probably will be again. I don't feel that this problem is going to go away until workers that are used to an all-male environment are out of the workforce, regardless of the dollars spent.

If 7 out of 10 "participants" think that there should be more funding for encouraging women, they are free to donate to SWE and NOW rather than try and get the government to spend more money that it doesn't have on a select group of individuals, the majority of which probably aren't interested in hearing about it. IF you had money, why not offer scholarships to individuals (be they male or female) entering engineering/science colleges/majors?

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#17
In reply to #16

Re: Survey Finds Two-Thirds of Americans Can’t Name a Famous Woman Scientist

05/13/2009 8:52 AM

I wouldn't consider you being boorish, I just took what you said a step further.

I just wanted to point out that gender-bashing is not always intentional, but can still have the same effect. Just studying earlier psychologists indicates a strong consensus that males were seen highly and women were not. Even the basic definitions of femininity and masculinity show tons of bias. Femininity is often thought to be emotional, while masculinity indicates strength. Not all men are strong and not all females are emotional... but the distinction has been set in stone since before women had rights. In todays society, it is much more acceptable for women to act masculine than men to act feminine.

It isn't even just the all-male environment workers that are saying these things, however... their kids hear these 'ideals' and their kids talk about it in school and before you know it, it has spread. It seems to be more of a general attitude then actual verbalization. Men are often skeptical of the skills that a woman can bring to the table, and that basic approach is often unfair and unjustified.

The problem is that if you give women incentives such as major scholarships to go to a predominantly male engineering school, the males will start to say 'you only got that because you are a girl', regardless of merit. It is a very outlandish/hurtful thing to say.

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#11

Re: Survey Finds Two-Thirds of Americans Can’t Name a Famous Woman Scientist

05/12/2009 10:31 AM

First, here are a few brilliant female scientists I admire, Madame Curie, Barbara McClintock, and Heddy Lamarr.

This survey though seems like another useless bit of trivia designed to stump people on a TV game show. I would like to know several additional pieces of information to clarify this survey. What was the survey size? (Ok, I did finally check the two citations, the pool size was 1000. But both citations present the same document. ) How many scientists did the survey group name of any gender and fame? If and how did the survey define a scientist? Did the survey exclude any female names as not a scientist? (She's a physician, engineer, mathematician, sociologist, not a scientist.) Was this survey subjected to peer review, if so by whom?

I do believe that Americans greatly under value the scientific community, of all genders. With the significant exception of inspiring a child of any gender to pursue a scientific career, I wonder what value society gains from knowing the names and genders of scientists. I'm much more worried that Americans do not understand the scientific process.

What percentage of Americans cannot recognize a self aggrandizing survey? Survey says...

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#12

Re: Survey Finds Two-Thirds of Americans Can’t Name a Famous Woman Scientist

05/12/2009 10:31 AM

Ha Ha HA - we all got hot buttons!

Having worked software for a while where we have pretty solid representation (depending on sector) of women in the early career stages - I think representation drops in mid-career because they realize it sucks.*

As a comparison / validation of my theory, none of my three sons (despite having enjoyed the benefits of MY working in this sector) wants ANYTHING to do with software - or engineering.

*When measured against a variety of factors entirely subjective and prone to statistical errors of up to 100% since they didn't actually want to know much ABOUT the field or my job. I strongly suspect most of their objections to engineering revolved around having to go to work in general.

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#14

Re: Survey Finds Two-Thirds of Americans Can’t Name a Famous Woman Scientist

05/12/2009 12:10 PM

Lise Meitner and Rosalind Franklin (not as "famous" but should have been) are two off the top of my head.

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#15

Re: Survey Finds Two-Thirds of Americans Can’t Name a Famous Woman Scientist

05/12/2009 5:01 PM

Hey Sharkles - Sad statistic - means we - all of us in the technology world - need to do a better job of educating our fellow American citizens. I'm in the 1/3 group, since Madam Curie came to mind for me right away. Think I learned about her in 2nd or 3rd grade, courtesy of dedicated, Upstate, NY Catholic nuns of the early-to-mid 1970's that I am forever grateful to. :) - Larry

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#18

Re: Survey Finds Two-Thirds of Americans Can’t Name a Famous Woman Scientist

05/14/2009 2:18 PM

As many have pointed out, we're too busy watching American Idol to be able to name any scientists. To me, it shouldn't matter what sex organs the scientist has or how resistant their skin is to solar radiation damage. One of the most admirable things I ever saw anyone do was when a fellow physicist turned down an award for Woman Scientist of the Year or the like even though it came with a hefty scholarship. As she put it, "I don't want to be the best WOMAN scientist, I want to be the best scientist, period." I had another friend earlier in life who turned down a scholarship that was based on his skin color. Neither of these individuals was in a financial position to turn down money at the time. We can't name scientists because our society values people who appear on TV over people doing things in real life.

By the way, one of my favorites is Henrietta Leavitt (spelling?), who discovered Cepheid variable stars, an important cosmic distance benchmark.

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#19

Re: Survey Finds Two-Thirds of Americans Can’t Name a Famous Woman Scientist

05/27/2009 8:01 AM

I am so glad I wasnt the only one struggling beyond Marie Curie and being aware there was a woman in the trio that discovered the double helix in DNA. Naming men is easier as you just need to look at units with capital letters - Newtons, Kelvin, Joule etc all men (mostly brits which I am proud of but that was mainly due to us imposing an empire on the world). Perhaps someone could identify the women in the photos for us (although to be honest I should set that for myself as remedial homework!)

For the woman wondering about recruiting practice - you have to look at the body of talent - in my field Chemical Engineering the student rates in the late 80's were 1 in 7 female well ahead of all other disciplines so it isnt practical logically to force the numbers over say 25% - obviously if all the best women engineers turn up at your company grab them the same as any bright applicant. At the time I think there were 4 female Fellows (ok skip the logical gyration FIChemE was the highest membership grade) which merely reflected that hardly any women studied engineering in the 50's which would have allowed them to reach the seniority required for Fellowship. I would expect the numbers now to have changed.

The other aspect of this is that to an extent scientific discovery is non personal. We all know the story of Newtons apple but unlike say a painter / composer who creates something new scientists enlarge our understanding but these things were true before we knew about them and are true after. Newtons knowledge didnt alter the path of our orbit it just made it possible to explain it and make predictions based on wobbles.

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