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Keeping Women In Science

Keeping Women In ScienceEfforts to encourage women to pursue careers in science and technology are being geared to all ages and coming from all corners of the Tufts community.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [05.02.05] Though many still consider the hard sciences to be male dominated, great strides have been made in opening doors for women seeking careers in the fields of science and technology. Mara Aspinall – a Tufts graduate and leader at one of Boston’s world-renowned biotechnology companies – is a prime example.Though it may come as a surprise to some, Aspinall says, biotechnology is a field ripe for women to step right into its corner offices. The bigger challenge is ensuring that girls are exposed to science throughout their education.

"This is an industry that is young enough that we are not burdened by a 100-year history that says there was ever a point at which it was dominated by men," Aspinall, president of Genzyme Genetics (a division of Genzyme Corp.), told the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

Many experts believe that the challenge lies in reaching those potential leaders at an early age. Aspinall told the Telegram & Gazette that while young, both boys and girls show a comparable level of interest in the sciences. The key to helping girls grow into women ready to step into these fields, she said, is to maintain that enthusiasm as they enter middle and high school.

"That's when women choose other professions, and that's the real problem, to keep women, girls interested in the profession," Aspinall told the newspaper.

On campus,Tufts is involved with multiple efforts to encourage young girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

The Tufts School of Engineering, in conjunction with the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), the Women in Engineering Programs & Advocates Network and the GE fund, runs the Women in Engineering Organization, which hosts an online database of engineering programs and resources for women and girls. The website fosters interactivity with online forums and different resources for audiences ranging from students to teachers to workers in the industry.

The University is also participating in several educational outreach efforts.

Tufts is among four Boston-area universities participating in the "4 Schools for Women In Engineering" grant project funded by the National Science Foundation. According to the program's website, "this three-year project will develop innovative practices for integrating engineering with science, technology and math into classrooms using gender-inclusive approaches."

In an editorial,The Boston Globe noted that Tufts hosted a March workshop for 200 Girl Scouts run by the Boston branch of the SWE, where the young girls learned about the different types of engineering and the history of women in the field.

Larisa Schelkin, director of Tufts' Center for Diversity and Inclusive Leadership in Science and Engineering and vice president of the local SWE branch, is volunteer executive chair of Massachusetts Girls Collaborative, a project that seeks to encourage opportunities for young girls to get involved in math, science and engineering.

Project proposals are reviewed and the collaborative awards mini-grants of $1,000, Mass High Tech reported. The National Science Foundation has funded $30,000 over a two-year period to the Massachusetts collaborative and two others like it in California and Indiana for grants and administrative costs.

“We will give out 20 awards of $1,000 each to the best programs, but mostly to those that struggle,” Schelkin told Mass HighTech.

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