Women in Science

Dr. Kate Clancy, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and blogger for the magazine Scientific American, speaks at a lecture series on women in science organized by Bradley's Women's Studies Program.

By Frank Radosevich II
October 24, 2012

With studies showing women outnumbered and lagging behind men in many fields of scientific research, a lecture series from Bradley’s Women’s Studies Program is tackling the issue of gender bias head-on.

The series, funded by a grant from Bradley’s Intellectual and Cultural Activities Committee, is hosting four public lectures and colloquiums for students about the continued barriers women in science face while celebrating the work of those who have overcome them.

Dr. Amy Scott, interim director for the Women’s Studies Program and assistant professor of history, said the series aims to call attention to the gender bias in science and examine what causes it and how to move beyond it.

“The idea is to bring in people with multiple perspectives on the historical and contemporary contributions of women to scientific research,” Dr. Scott explained, “and also to get our community thinking about how gender barriers have historically precluded women from entering into scientific fields and to continue to affect women’s participation in STEM fields.”

The series is also partnering with the Peoria Reads program, a citywide effort to encourage reading, by hosting a panel in February on the history and sociology of the medically disenfranchised. The panel discussion will complement Peoria Reads annual book selection, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot. The book examines story of the African-American woman whose cancer cells were unwittingly cultured to create an immortal cell line for medical research.

In years past, the Women’s Studies Committee has sponsored lectures by social movement activists Gloria Steinem and Angela Davis, as well as media figures such as Donna Brazil and Eleanor Clift.  The program’s lecture series has recently taken a thematic approach, providing for more in-depth study of historical and contemporary questions about women’s and gender issues.  Recent lecture series have examined women serving in the military and the problem of human trafficking.

“Much of our programming has been centered in the humanities and social sciences. With our Women in Science programming, the committee sought to reach across the University and involve students and faculty in disciplines beyond the liberal arts,” Dr. Scott said.

Two of the four speakers have already visited campus. Dr. Kate Clancy, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and blogger for the magazine Scientific American, spoke to a packed room this month at the Caterpillar Global Communications Center. She also sat down with Bradley students in their classrooms for some small group discussions.

Kayla Doane, a sophomore studying history from Marengo, Ill., said it was interesting to hear Dr. Clancy’s accounts of gender bias that she faced not only in her career as a anthropologist but in research carried out in the field.

“It’s a good way to highlight women that have broken barriers in the scientific fields,” said Doane, who met Dr. Clancy while she visited Doane’s women’s studies class. “I feel that it’s something that needs to be addressed.”

The two remaining lectures in the series will feature Céline Cousteau, granddaughter of underwater filmmaker and explorer Jacques Cousteau, and Mary Wyer, a psychologist at North Carolina State University.

Cousteau will discuss her recent documentary March 27 and detail how she was able to succeed in the male-dominated field of nature documentaries. Wyer, an expert in the field of gender and science, will close the series with a talk titled, "Women in Science: Equity, Diversity and Inclusion" on April 27.