Summary of The Only Woman in the Room

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Despite being one of the first two women to graduate with a BS in physics from Yale, Eileen Pollack became a writer instead of pursuing a career in physics. As a child, she wanted to learn math and science, but teachers discouraged her because of her gender. Pollack examines her education as a case history to understand why women abandon science careers. Weaving her experiences and interviews with women in science, Pollack discusses why women leave science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers and explores how to prevent their exodus. getAbstract recommends Pollack’s insights to STEM teachers, professors, HR executives and practitioners, and women aspiring to study and work in the hard sciences.

About the Author

University of Michigan creative writing professor Eileen Pollack is the author of the novels Breaking and Entering (a New York Times Editor’s Choice book) and Paradise, New York, as well as two collections of short fiction, a book of nonfiction and two creative-nonfiction textbooks.



Growing Up

Eileen Pollack wasn’t allowed to join her rural high school’s advanced curriculum in physics and math because, as her principal told her, “Girls never go on in science and math.” She grew up in Liberty, New York, a working-class resort area where her grandparents owned a hotel. Elementary school wasn’t challenging until third grade. A turning point came when a teacher told Pollack to sit still and not to read ahead while she waited for the class to catch up with her. She and two boys who also liked math convinced the teacher to let them work on multiplication and division while the rest of the class labored with addition and subtraction. Teasing her male classmates landed her in the office of the principal who tested Pollack to see if she was smart enough to skip a grade. Instead of asking straightforward addition and subtraction questions, he tested her on more difficult, abstract skills. School officials told her mother that Pollack wasn’t “mature” or “well socialized” enough to skip a grade. Though she was young, Pollack already realized that the principal held her and her male classmate to different standards. A boy who skipped a grade was “far less mature...

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    N. M. 3 years ago
    I was truly surprised at how engaging this getAbstract is. This book seem to have a wealth of data and will definitely serve parents of young girls well so as to direct the messages they give their daughter regard her potential.
    Here again we see how important it is to teach young girls and boys from the sandbox how to be fair and equal and that they have the same capabilities. Great job Eileen! I'm so keen to read her books. Going online now to buy a couple.