When I started graduate school at Syracuse University in the late sixties, the chair of my department informed me that I would not be eligible for fellowships, because I was a woman. Pulling out a page of statistics, he pointed to the data indicating that women didn’t finish PhD programs, and if they did, they interrupted their academic careers for marriage and children and therefore didn’t go back to catch up with their peers. They were, he concluded, “a bad investment” for the department and the university.
Needless to say, with assistance from the Dean and other more progressive members of the faculty, I did finish my PhD. Then I went to New York to begin my academic career at the City University. At the end of my second semester of teaching, the department chair called me in for an evaluation. After pointing out that I was an excellent teacher and had published more than all of the other professors in the department put together, he said that he felt it necessary to be candid with me. “We have never tenured a woman, and never will; a bad investment,” he said. I immediately called a department chair at Columbia University who had been trying to recruit me and moved over there.
Overt gender discrimination is now very rare, but it is still an issue. There has been considerable progress since I started my career, but it has been painfully slow, especially in science and engineering. The playing field is still not level. Growing numbers of women have earned undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees. More and more of these well-qualified scientists and engineers have sought to pursue their calling in both aca-