One of many great books the MSU ADVANCE team has found is The Equity Equation: Fostering the Advancement of Women in the Sciences, Mathematics and Engineering. This 1996 book is a collaborative effort between many accomplished female scientists. It showed difficulties faced by women in STEM and possible solutions to the problems that hold them back. A lot has changed since 1996, but this book offers a valuable look at how the landscape for women in STEM is different now than it was then.
The book explored how stereotypes and prejudice pushed girls and women away from science in the ’90s. It described data from a 1990 report by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) which showed a gap in science prowess between young girls and boys that increased as they grew older. This NAEP report showed that only 5% of 12th grade girls expressed interest in a scientific career. Compare that to a 2019 NAEP report showing that 51% of 12th-grade girls surveyed showed interest in a career in science, compared to 42% of boys. Clearly the landscape has changed in the intervening years.
The book also discussed the importance of role models and mentoring. It explains how women at the time were often discouraged by the lack of other women in scientific careers, particularly at high ranks. This harmed their confidence in their own abilities. This is still an issue in the current day, but it has been mitigated somewhat by mentoring programs and increased numbers of women.
There are solutions proposed by the book which the authors hoped could improve the outlook for women in STEM. Many of them are intervention programs, providing mentoring, internships, social support, and other important resources. The types of programs proposed are similar to ones that have seen success in leveling the playing field for women in STEM in the modern day. The book also pointed out how lasting systemic change must be built from the ground up. Despite how long it has been since the publication of this book, that point is one that still rings true today.