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Women in STEM need more than a law

Black Women in Science

Women in STEM need more than a law

BY Caitlin McDermott-Murphy via

Scientists have seen gains the past 50 years, but culture remains an obstacle

In the 1970s, as Evelynn Hammonds walked the halls of MIT’s physics department on her way to a Ph.D., faculty, students, and staff kept asking her the same question:

“Hi, Shirley, how’s your work going?”

Her name, of course, was Evelynn, not Shirley. A few years before, Shirley Jackson, the second African American woman to receive a Ph.D. in physics in the United States, had been the only Black woman in the department. But she was gone by the time Hammonds, also the only Black woman in MIT physics, arrived.

“As an African American woman, I carried the double burden,” Hammonds, the chair and professor of the history of science at Harvard, recalled in a recent interview with the Harvard Museums of Science and Culture. “The first two years, I just felt like I was constantly fighting to have people take me seriously.”

After she earned her degree, Hammonds took a leave of absence to grapple with questions physics couldn’t answer: “Where are the women? What’s going on?”

Today, on the 50th anniversary of Title IX, which prohibits sex-based discrimination at educational institutions that receive federal funding, she’s still asking why…

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I am a future butterfly at the stage of growth when I am turning into an adult. I am enclosed in a hard case shell formed by love, family, and friends. It is the hardest stage of becoming a black butterfly. You will encounter many hardships only to come out stronger and better than what you went in. At this stage, you are finding out who you truly are and how to love yourself.

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