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Monday, April 15
The Indiana Daily Student


COLUMN: The inescapable truth of truth values

Truth Values: “One Girl’s Romp Through MIT’s Male Math Maze” by Gioia De Cari was performed at the Wells-Metz Theatre on Tuesday.

The play follows the playwright’s slightly dramatized autobiographical story while working to complete her Ph.D. in math at MIT during the 1980s and dwells both on the dearth of women in STEM and on the microaggressions that contribute to the gender disparity.

The play was inspired by a comment in 2005 by “then-Harvard president Lawrence Summers’ ... remark about how women are biologically ill-suited to excel in math ?and science.”

Though it has been 10 years since the beginning of the writing the play and more than 30 years since the events in the play, the message that it has to say is still ?relevant today.

According to data from the World Bank, only 40.5 percent of all U.S. graduates in science were women ?in 2011.

Compare this to other countries, such as Lebanon and even Iran, where 61.5 percent and 70 percent of science graduates are ?female, respectively.

These countries that aren’t progressive actually have disproportionately large percentages of ?female graduates.

Of course, this single statistic doesn’t bear on the larger socioeconomic and political status of women in Lebanon and Iran, but it is a telling detail when Iran and Lebanon exhibit greater involvement of women in ?science than the U.S.

Part of this difference is attributed by studies to different cultural perceptions of the fields of science.

In Malaysia, for example, where nearly half of computer science degrees go to women, computer science “is deemed well-suited for women because it’s seen as theoretical (not physical) and it takes place almost exclusively in offices (thought to be woman-friendly spaces).”

Compare this to the American stereotype of male hackers or techies.

Though the difference is the result of gender biases, it does not invalidate the meaningfulness of ?the difference.

After all, we live in a modernized country that guarantees equality and, further, a country that many people claim is beyond the feminist era, that all socioeconomic differences between men and women have ?been resolved.

Though the disparity in the U.S. alone should be enough of a concern to warrant action, realizing where the U.S. lands in proportional gender representation in the sciences is a reality check.

In fact, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) analyzed data comparing the “gender ratio among science graduate to the gender ratio among graduates in all other fields” and found the U.S. scores in the middle of the distribution, near Ecuador, ?Mongolia, Germany ?and Ireland.

De Cari’s play has not become dated even though we are three decades removed from the depicted events. Recognizing gender disparity in science and even other fields is the first step to making her play irrelevant.

After all, that should be a milestone, when “Truth Values” becomes a piece of historical literature and we view it as only art, ?not commentary.

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