New Book on African American Women in Science

Via the WEPAN listserv, I just learned about a new book about African American women in science:

Temple University is proud to announce the publication of Swimming Against the Tide: African American Girls and Science Education by Sandra L. Hanson. In her book, Hanson uses Department of Education data as well as a recent survey of young African American women to examine the experiences in families, communities, and peer-groups that help young African American women "swim against the tide" of the white, male science education system. Sandra L. Hanson is Professor of Sociology and Research Associate at Life Cycle Institute, Catholic University . To learn more about the book, please visit its website.

From the book's website:

"They looked at us like we were not supposed to be scientists," says one young African American girl, describing one openly hostile reaction she encountered in the classroom. In this significant study, Sandra Hanson explains that although many young minority girls are interested in science, the racism and sexism in the field discourage them from pursuing it after high school. Those girls that remain highly motivated to continue studying science must "swim against the tide."

Indeed. I will never forget the young African American woman at Kansas State who told me how, every semester, in at least one of her science and engineering classes, a professor would invariably come up to her on the first day of class and solicitously suggest to her that she must be in the wrong classroom. After all, what in the world would an African American woman be doing in a science or engineering class, right? Right.

I really, really want to get my hands on this book but it costs $64.50. The website suggests a paperback version is due out in September; I may just have to wait for that.


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Save up for the hardcover. The print quality will be better.

Thusfar in my own profession of applied technology, I have come across 3 African Americans in total. I'm sure there are a handful more out there somewhere. I have never seen an African American woman. Not one. I don't need to remind anyone - it's 2009.

By stickypaws (not verified) on 15 Jul 2009 #permalink

I think I am beginning to understand why my parents sent me to a girl-only school. Never, in all my years of education was there any indication that any of us, minority or not, were expected to do anything but excel in all our subjects. Certainly I had professors who gave the impression that they did not like having 'woman-folk' in their classes, but those troglodytes could be avoided.

Why do people insist on behaving like your phenotype has anything to do with your studies?

By JustaTech (not verified) on 15 Jul 2009 #permalink

I wrote a letter of reference for a student applying for a summer internship. She was so excited. She was invited for the interview, but she called me from the parking lot after, it sounded like in tears. She said "they aren't going to pay me! what's up with that? are they serious? is that legal?" I didn't know she applied for a volunteer internship but I did tell her that internships usually pay crap. She is black, the first woman in her family to graduate college, and with a science degree. Her mom called me later that day asking if the internship was legit and I told her yes, unfortunately it's common to not pay workers. The internship covered maybe gas and food, not sure, but it was pennies. My student's mom talked to me for over an hour about the civil rights movement. She asked me about my internship and job experiences, because she said I inspired her daughter to keep going with science. She said a few times "I don't know where she gets it, I don't understand half of what she talks about, sounds crazy to me." I told her about my good and bad experiences. She said she doesn't want her daughter doing science anymore, she'd rather her pick up hotel rooms for pay than be an indentured servant for white man scientists. Her daughter, the black woman scientist college graduate, delivered pizza to my door one day. I was happy and surprised to see her, but she broke down crying almost instantly. She told me she got "the wrong degree", shouldn't have wasted four years in college, and how the lack of blacks and women in science should have been the big writing on the wall for her to not do it. I think about her all the time.

Ah, JC, that's just heartbreaking.

I think maybe I'm just going to have to splurge on the hardcover copy. It's too important of a topic not to own the book.