The book for this week’s review of a Women in STEM memoir or biography is The Only Woman in the Room: Why Science Is Still a Boys’ Club by Eileen Pollack.
Technically Eileen Pollack isn’t a woman in STEM. But her story belongs in this series because:
- She was one of the first two women to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics from Yale.
- She describes her findings about how the situation for women studying in the STEM fields has changed since she graduated from Yale.
Growing Up a Girl
Many women who grew up with an interest in math and science will related to the first part of this book. In spite of Pollack’s skill in math and science, only boys could take advanced math and science classes. That didn’t keep her from entering science fairs and doing well. She won the honor of “the smartest girl in the school”. But everyone knew that the honor was secondary to winning the title of “the smartest boy in the school” . This perception didn’t change when she and another girl graduated from their high school as the valedictorian and salutatorian. The “smartest boy” graduated third.
During her senior year in high school she was accepted at Yale. She planned to become a physicist but teachers encouraged her to put a less technical major on her application. After all, “girl’s didn’t” major in physics at Yale.