Reality Check

When I started teaching chemistry at a women’s college 10 years ago, a sophomore named Tahnee came to me and said she wasn’t very good at math, so was a bit nervous about taking chemistry. She wanted to become a doctor, so she said I had better be a good teacher. As a young professor, I was taken aback, but also impressed with this student’s confidence and drive.

Tahnee proceeded to attend every office hour I scheduled. Sometimes she had problems on homework but often, she simply did extra problems at the tables outside my office door. Apparently, she told her friends that this was a good way to learn chemistry, and soon, I had about 10 women sitting outside my door during every office hour. They would help each other with problems or send representatives to my office if they got stuck.

After a while, I asked Tahnee how she got all these young women to spend so much time doing chemistry. She explained that she lectured them about how people didn’t think that women could do science and that it was up to them to prove that Scripps women were better at chemistry than their male counterparts. I was stunned. This young woman understood that gender discrimination existed but wasn’t about to let that stop her.

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