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More women, minorities needed in science

Original post made on Feb 15, 2009

The United States is in danger of losing its leadership in science and technology unless more women and minorities are recruited to become scientists, a Stanford physicist said at a national conference in Chicago Saturday morning.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Sunday, February 15, 2009, 10:04 AM

Comments (29)

Posted by Greg, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 15, 2009 at 2:28 pm

American corporations say that want more American high-tech workers. At the same time, they are laying off hundreds of thousands of Americans and sending their jobs to India or hiring Indians on low-wage H1B alien-worker visas. If the corporations really want more Americans to study math and science, then stop the layoffs! Engineering and science careers require many years of specialized education and American students are not willing to pay that price for an uncertain career future.

Posted by paly parent, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 15, 2009 at 4:10 pm

if we want more students to study math and science, we need to have teachers who will teach those subjects with enthusiasm, assign meaningful homework, provide interesting, hands-on science. Its a lot harder to get kids to study something they view as s chore or boring.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 15, 2009 at 4:16 pm

I agree with pp. I also think the curriculum is very much at fault. As someone who was educated outside the US, I am surprised at all the gaps in my kids' education, particular in the application area. Many of the good things I studied at early high school level are not studied here until college level and the stuff I am talking about is useful regardless of career choice, eg. meteorology, mapreading, geology, and human biology like the human skeleton and joint types.

Posted by Roger Clegg, a resident of another community
on Feb 15, 2009 at 7:06 pm

It's fine to cast a wider net and ensure that as many talented people as possible are aware of opportunities and encouraged to take advantage of them. But please, just select the best qualified individuals, regardless of race, ethnicity, or sex -- and with no preferential treatment, politically correct or otherwise.

Posted by My Two Cents, a resident of Professorville
on Feb 15, 2009 at 7:58 pm

Sounds good.

It might help if it didn't take 2 people 30 years to pay off a mortgage.

We take this for granted, but back in the sixties or so, it took 1 person about 20 years to pay off a mortgage.

Ask yourself honestly: How many years should a minimum-wage worker toil to own a small home?

Until we figure out to stop brutalizing our population, you can forget being a world leader.

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 15, 2009 at 8:14 pm

The average Blackwater mercenary takes home more money than 90% of scientists. A partner in a major law firm makes how many times more money than a Nobel prize winner. The incentives are pretty clear. The U.S. will continue to import scientists through the H1-B visas. The general U.S. population will continue to know more about Paris Hilton than physics.

Posted by JP, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 15, 2009 at 10:03 pm

Huh? The title is misleading. What do women and minorities have to do with it? We just need more physics majors in general, as noted by Roger, above.

Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 15, 2009 at 10:21 pm

We need more focus on math and science in our schools, currently Asians excel in these areas, do they constitute a minority?

This whole minority focus is a boxed canyon and has got us nowhere.

Math and science has to be learned early, arts and humanities can be picked up anytime later, as a hobby or vocation after you have established a financial fortress.

Whether the maths/science graduates are white or any other color is irrelevant, this country was founded on the ideal of E Pluribus Unnum and we need to get back to that.

Multi-culturism is dead like Communism, a god that died.

Western Civilization is the Darwinian survivor, some academics do not get the reality, shame on them.
The main threat is demographics, western women need to marry and breed.

Posted by JP, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 15, 2009 at 10:29 pm

No, Asians are no longer considered minorities, especially since they excel in academics (they can't get accepted under minority status). Thirty years ago they were.

Minorities now are African-Americans and Hispanics, but with the Hispanic population growing...

Posted by Comp Science, a resident of Community Center
on Feb 16, 2009 at 8:32 am

The current generation of high school students (Any ethnic background) know all too well that outsourcing is going to hurt their job prospects - hence are not interested in pursuing Engineering/CS careers.

Even parents seem to have stopped encouraging their kids in these fields.

Posted by bruce, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 16, 2009 at 2:47 pm

The education of our people for leadership but also for political organization is probably the most important thing that we can do. It has been argued about hotly for decades and has only gotten worse. I wonder how that can be. We could not have done worse on so many dimension in the USA is we had tried? What is going on?

Whatever we are doing in terms of actions, discussions, and theory we must be getting wrong, or is this being done purposefully. I know a lot of people who say we are deliberately trying to dumb-down Americans to accept a dark future. That seems like a conspiracy theory, but how is it that on most metrics of everything the country is mysteriously declining?

Let's look at reality, and results.

Posted by female scientist, a resident of Stanford
on Feb 16, 2009 at 2:53 pm

Male or Female, Minority or Not. I have a Ph.D. in chemistry and many of my friends across the nation are getting laid off. I could take the lower pay, since I had job security, satisfaction, and flexibility. Now with those gone, I only encourage students to pursue a Ph.D. if they are really passionate about the science or I let them know that the Ph.D. is just the beginning of a career path with roots in science and that breadth is other areas is essential to professional growth.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 16, 2009 at 6:19 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Sadly, some gatekeepers still don't get it.

Posted by John Rosenberg, a resident of another community
on Feb 16, 2009 at 8:26 pm

Exactly WHY are "more women and minorities" needed in science? Isn't one Ford Windstar enough, or do we also need a black Windstar and a Hispanic Windstar? Excuse me for being flip, but the need for more "more women and minorities" in science is simply not made here. If we need more skilled scientists, then by all means try to produce more and better high school science teachers; by all means try to persuade talented college students to major in math and science; but do not try to persuade only women and minorities. I would say by all means remove any barriers to entry keeping women and minorities out of math and science, but I doubt those barriers exist.

For what it's worth I'm a Stanford grad (undergraduate and graduate school), and my daughter is a graduate student in physics at Caltech. I don't believe she should be denied any opportunities, in science or elsewhere, because she's female, but I also don't think she should be given any preferential treatment because some people believe we need more scientists of her kind -- an impossible desire in any event because she, like most talented scientists, is one of a kind.

Posted by Perspective, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 17, 2009 at 7:34 am

Agreed that "women and minorities" is absolutely irrelevant. Our "affirmative action" mindset has led to an erosion of all publicly funded fields, from military to civil service to any government job to education.

Time to get over our racism and sexism and just advance/vote based on merit ( remember "content over color" from MLK anyone? Are we ready to embrace it yet?.

At least Larry Summers has been vindicated to some extent from the PC crowd running him out of town because of his realistic comments about why there are fewer women in high sciences! Maybe we can take that as a real sign of hope.

Posted by Perspective, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 17, 2009 at 7:37 am

Additional comments:

1)The other down side to "affirmative action" selection is that even if the person IS the most qualified, there is always doubt in others' minds and in the mind of the selected about whether or not they were selected to fulfill some silly quota. NOT actually good for the advancement of anyone since a jaundiced eye always looks at them.

2) The idea that Asians aren't considered a "minority" because "they" do so well academically is completely ridiculous if it is at all true. I hope it isn't true! By the same token, that would mean that whites SHOULD be considered a minority, because relative to Asians they DON'T do as well academically!! That would be absolutely silly.

Posted by do the math, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2009 at 12:28 pm

John and Perspective,

The topic is about leadership. The connection with ethnicity and gender is in the fact that with the current white and Asian mostly male formula, the US may not maintain leadership, which has been in decline. As Bruce above posts

"on most metrics of everything the country is mysteriously declining?"

Do you really think this is only about Higher Education and affirmative action?

Posted by Ada, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 17, 2009 at 3:03 pm

What a bunch of crap! We need more smart and honest people in science, this should be the only criteria, and not the gender and race. Why can't people comprehend that?

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2009 at 4:02 pm

Glad this very long weekend without school is almost over.

It asks the question, what is there for teenagers to do in Palo Alto when it is wet? I know many have gone away for the mini-ski week, but for those who have remained it is 5 days of cabin fever. How can what are normally active kids find things to do when there is no school which keeps them active?

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2009 at 4:04 pm

Sorry, meant to start a new thread with this, shows what happens when you have bored teenagers at home!!

Posted by danny the homeless guy, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2009 at 4:11 pm

And don't forget the Homeless:

Web Link

Posted by JP, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 18, 2009 at 8:55 am


It is true, Asians are not considered a "minority" in regards to academics. They are over-represented in academics so they cannot be admitted on minority status. They are being accepted based upon their applications and perhaps their 4.1 GPAs.

You obviously have not visited UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC Irvine, in the last 20 years. Tons of Asians because Asians put academics as their #1 priority.

Many Caucasians do fine in keeping up with the Asians in academics. But usually those are the ones whose parents also stress academics in their homes.

African-Americans, Hispanics are considered minorities because there are fewer of them who seek degrees past high school. Even if the numbers of Hispanics increase dramatically so that they are no longer minorities, they will still be considered minorities in academics unless a huge flow of them decide to pursue post-high school degrees.

I worked in the graduate school registrar's office of a famous university in the late 80s and the minorities (AA & Hispanics) were accepted with much lower GPAs and continued to have lower GPAs throughout graduate school. Again, Asians weren't considered minorities.

Posted by do the math, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 18, 2009 at 10:08 am


Asians dominating US Higher Education is because of the culture of stressing academics, and how competitive they are. Whites are feeling the pressure and maybe this makes for the out for #1 mentality.

If i were an admissions officer, I would probably take lesser GPA's in exchange for some other qualities.

Regarding Math and Science though, the white and Asian male formula alone is apparently not enough for leadership.

Posted by Perspective, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 18, 2009 at 10:38 am

To Do the Math: Do you really believe that leadership is about color and gender?

To JP: Except for your presumptuous and arrogant "you obviously have not visited UC Berk..." etc, I appreciated your explanation. I knew that Asians were way "overrepresented" ( a racist term I despise) in universities, especially the best ones. I believe that has been true for at least 10 years..or at least that is how long I have been hearing complaints (from whites) about it. I didn't realize that takes away the moniker "minority" from them, but I guess in an academic context maybe it does.

I believe that education and leadership are ABSOLTUTELY related, so I look forward to having ever increasing numbers of Asians in positions of leadership.

With any luck, a guy of the "the other Asian", from India, will be running for President in 3 years. ( Referring to Jindal in Louisiana...who is NO Huey P. Long, thank goodness!!)

Posted by JP, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 18, 2009 at 11:11 am


I apologize for the flaming "obviously" statement but perhaps that came out after reading your additional comments #2 with the capital letters and double exclamation points.

Let me share that I am Asian and have experienced discrimination when I lived out of California. Being raised in this area, I had never experienced discrimination.

As far as affirmative action, if two people are equally capable of a job, but one is Caucasian and the other is of a different ethnicity or race, who is the boss going to choose? The boss probably has more in common with the upbringing and personality of the Caucasian. People tend to choose those who are more like them. An Asian boss might pick an Asian over a Caucasian just the same. Just as people marry people who have much the same appearance of themselves (look around and you'll laugh at how much some couples look alike).

So how are the minorities supposed to get ahead in the workplace? They need to work harder than the Caucasians to prove themselves (see the movie, "The Pursuit of Happyness"). But still, there are the old boys clubs out there which we cannot overcome.

Do the math,

I agree, other experiences and qualities are important besides GPA. Asians should learn that their children need to learn to socialize also so they can gain other skills necessary for the workplace. They aren't going to be chosen as leaders if they do not have the personalities.

I chose to live in Palo Alto versus Fremont or Cupertino for more diversity and many other Asians have said the same. Just because I am Asian, doesn't mean I want to feel like I am living in Asia.

Posted by do the math, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 18, 2009 at 12:19 pm


"Do you really believe that leadership is about color and gender?"

Depends on your population and what your objective is. Unlike Sweden, in the US, leadership includes looking at race and gender issues of your population. And if the objective is to be a leader in Math and Science, Arthur Bienenstock's perspective makes sense.

"After later serving as a science and technology officer in the Clinton administration, he said his perspective changed. "My viewpoint changed in the sense that I saw the benefit wasn't just for women and minorities, it was for the whole country," he said."

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 18, 2009 at 4:47 pm

back to paly parent's comments above about the need for good Physics teachers:
we are so lucky in that we have a child attending a boarding school out of state and she has an outstanding Physics teacher! They do exist. We are very pleased.

Posted by do the math, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 18, 2009 at 8:12 pm

a related must read on affirmative action and more.

Holder: U.S. a 'nation of cowards' on race discussions

Web Link

In a reference to the highly divisive issue of affirmative action, Holder said there can be "very legitimate debate about the question of affirmative action. This debate can and should be nuanced, principled and spirited."

The attorney general criticized past public debates on the issue as "too often simplistic and left to those on the extremes who are not hesitant to use these issues to advance nothing more than their own narrow self-interest."

Posted by rebecca justiniano, a resident of another community
on Feb 2, 2010 at 2:23 pm

I could not have said it better than Sharon. When she said "Math and science has to be learned early, arts and humanities can be picked up anytime later, as a hobby or vocation after you have established a financial fortress." I live in East Harlem NY, and I feel like getting a fair-to good science and math education, is almost like joining an upscale country club, where you need good connections and money. Sad because our society is self canabolising on its future.

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