by Taryn Wilgus Null, MARGARET Fund Fellow
National Women's Law Center
Take note, Larry Summers.
Less than three years ago, then-president of Harvard Larry Summers stated at an academic conference that the paucity of women at the highest levels of math and science might be a result of innate differences between men's and women's abilities. We were dismayed at his comments then and now there is further evidence that he didn't quite know what he was talking about. Yesterday, for the first time in the history of the Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology, girls placed first in both the team and individual categories. First prize in the team category went to Janelle Schlossberger and Amanda Marinoff, who created a molecule that helps block the reproduction of drug-resistant tuberculosis bacteria. The seventeen-year-old girls will split a $100,000 scholarship. Isha Himani Jain, who is sixteen, won a $100,000 scholarship in the individual category for her studies of bone growth in zebra fish.
On a day when it was reported that the math and science skills of American teens lag behind those of their peers in many other industrialized countries, we can be heartened that these young women are excelling in spite of stereotypes and biases about the science and math abilities of girls and women.
These girls have already set ambitious goals for themselves in their chosen fields. Ms. Schlossberger plans to study physics in college while Ms. Marinoff plans to study both biology and French and hopes to become a doctor for Doctors Without Borders. After studying biology and math in college, Ms. Jain aspires to lead a lab focused on those disciplines. Given their accomplishments thus far, the sky is clearly the limit for these talented young women. Harvard may want to keep an eye out for these girls.