Why STEM Students Need Gender Studies

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Carol Colatrella, professor in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication makes a case for supporting gender studies programs in a recent publication.

Full Summary:

Carol Colatrella, professor in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication makes a case for supporting gender studies programs in a recent publication.

 

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  • Carol Colatrella Carol Colatrella
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Carol Colatrella, professor in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication makes a case for supporting gender studies programs in a recent publication.

Recent university budget reductions and debates about improving efficiencies in higher education have encouraged speculation about the relative values of different disciplines. Critics argue that the humanities and social sciences are less valuable than science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields because they do not generate the same levels of external research funding, donations, and municipal investment. Those who attempt to assign value to particular fields weigh initial salaries for graduates, the availability of jobs, and the need for employees with scientific and technical knowledge and skills, deeming fields without clearly defined career paths less worthy of public support.

The headline of a January 29, 2013, article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, “N.C. Governor Wants to Tie University Support to Jobs, Not Liberal Arts,” illuminates the tension between employment goals and the liberal arts in public discourse about higher education. I was more immediately troubled, however, by Governor Pat McCrory’s assertion, in a radio conversation with former US secretary of education William J. Bennett, that gender studies courses “have no chance of getting people jobs.”

As someone who has helped to build a gender studies program, I would offer a counterargument. Gender studies as a field illustrates the potential of interdisciplinary scholarship in today’s scientific and technical university: it can increase the representation of women and minorities in STEM fields and help prepare them to participate in those fields. 

Politicians and the public should value the contributions of those who teach and carry out research in the interdisciplinary field of gender studies. The outcomes of effective gender studies programs and associated initiatives include increasing knowledge about social organization and cultural values; creating networks affiliating faculty, students, staff, and alumni; and enhancing campus community. The long-standing efforts to increase the numbers of women and historically underrepresented minorities in STEM fields at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where I teach, have gained traction from the success of academic and social initiatives connecting gender studies theory and practice in the liberal arts with other academic disciplines. 

Infusing the concerns of gender studies in STEM fields can boost placement rates for women in high-salary science and technology jobs and lead to improved work-life balance across fields. My experiences at Georgia Tech demonstrate that gender studies scholarship and related activities are valuable in many ways.

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Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts

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Student and Faculty
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Keywords
carol colatrella, Gender, gender studies, STEM, WST
Status
  • Created By: Beth Godfrey
  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created On: Jun 30, 2014 - 9:38am
  • Last Updated: Oct 7, 2016 - 11:16pm