On our first day of senior year, we walked into our AP Calculus class [at Berman Hebrew Academy in Rockville, Maryland] and saw that we were the only girls taking the advanced course. We weren’t surprised — during junior year, there were only three girls in a class of 12 — but it struck us as incongruous that there are a number of intelligent, capable girls in our grade, yet hardly any choose to take the advanced math and science classes offered in school. This problem is not confined only to the Class of 2018 — for instance, Ilana Bauman (‘14) was the only girl in her AP Calculus class as well.
What did strike us as strange is that back in freshman year, the ratio of males to females in our math class was unbalanced, but not appalling. It was between sophomore and junior year that most of our female peers chose not to pursue more difficult math classes. We decided that we had to reach out to the freshman girls and let them know that science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are worthy areas of study for women.
In order to convey this message, we started the Women in STEM Club at Berman, which brings in women from the community who are involved in STEM fields to discuss their jobs. We wanted to give a female face to the STEM fields, instead of holding up ‘women in STEM’ as a lofty but unrealistic ideal.
The club’s meetings are open to both men and women, to ensure that the boys in Berman also recognize that women belong in the STEM fields. As the only girls in our math class, we were occasionally mocked, teased, or ridiculed. Most jokes were not meant to be malicious; rather, the boys were unaware of the impact they had when telling girls that they don’t belong in advanced STEM classes. We want the club to educate boys and help them understand that teasing women who chose to join STEM fields is harmful, not hilarious.
The Women in STEM Club is not here to teach science and math to women. Rather, it is here to encourage women to stay in advanced classes and learn as much as they can in these male-dominated subjects.
By Eliana Elikan and Adina Fleisher
Eliana Elikan and Adina Fleisher are seniors at Berman Hebrew Academy in Rockville, Maryland, and founders of the Women in STEM Club.