Physics Department Seminar
Dr. Amina Mire
Assistant Professor
Carleton University
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Leaky Pipeline or Embracing Femininity in the STEM Fields?

In the Western countries, including Canada, women and girls who enter in the STEM fields often suffer from what is known as the leaky pipeline. The leaky pipeline addresses a social phenomenon in which women and girls enter the STEM fields enthusiastically and then steadily leave them.  Some researchers working in the Western academia and media pundits have linked the leaky pipeline to biologically determined factors which supposedly shape gendered ways of learning. If this was the case, there would have been similar patterns of women and girls leaking out from Science, Technology, Engineering and the Math fields in large numbers around the world. But the available empirical data show this is not the case. There is large data which show that women’s success in the STEM fields varies radically.  For example, available data shows that in the Europeans continent, women in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (former Soviet Republics) do well in the STEM fields. Women also do well in the STEM fields in Asian countries such as India and China. This lecture reveals how nineteenth century Victorian era construction of women as frail shaped and continue to frame women as too “weak” to cope with the challenging demand of strenuous mental activities.  Embracing Femininity in the STEM Fields can be critically important strategy to subvert Western modernist construction of the  ‘frail’ female subject. In this way, femininity can be deployed creatively to entice girls to the STEM fields. Embracing femininity can also be critical important way of overcoming image of the few “hard” women in the STEM fields; women as anomy figures in physics and engineering fields. In this lecture, I propose embracing femininity in the STEM as part of broader theoretical and empirical project that seeks to uncover how women have been systematically removed from popular symbolic imaginary and material progress of technological modernity in the West.