July 24th, 2012
02:00 PM ET

Thank you, Sally Ride

By Meg Urry, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Meg Urry is the Israel Munson professor of physics and astronomy and chairwoman of the Department of Physics at Yale University, where she is the director of the Yale Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics.

(CNN) - Sitting in a meeting at NASA's Science Advisory Committee on Monday afternoon, I heard the news that Sally Ride had died. She was important to everyone in that room - mostly space scientists and NASA officials. But for a handful of women like me, she was an irreplaceable leader.

Sally Ride, first American woman in space, dies

Sally Ride wasn't the first woman to go into space, or to want to do so, much less the first woman qualified to do so. She would have been the first to tell you that. But as the first U.S. woman in space, on STS-7, the seventh flight of America's new space shuttle, she was the first woman astronaut most Americans knew about. And she used that fame for good.

Learn the impact Sally Ride had on science education for girls: FULL STORY
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Filed under: Photos • STEM • Voices • Women's issues
June 22nd, 2012
06:20 AM ET

Analysis: 40 years after Title IX, 904% more women play high school sports

By Donna Krache, CNN

(CNN) – The year was 1972.  “M*A*S*H,” “Sanfordand Son” and “Kung Fu” were reasons to stay home and watch TV.  Roberta Flack had the number one song on the radio with “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.”  Don McLean drove his Chevy to the levee and sang goodbye to Miss “American Pie.”

The women’s liberation movement was in full swing, but in schools there were huge educational discrepancies between the genders, both in the kinds of classes they took and in the kinds of extracurricular activities they took part in.

That year, there were only 30,000 girls in the U.S. participating in high school sports.

Today there are more than 3 million.

Listen to CNN's Edgar Treiguts' interview Ann Meyers Drysdale, a former UCLA basketball star and Olympian, and executive of men's and women's professional basketball teams in Phoenix.

Changes came about in large part because of a law known as Title IX.

When President Richard Nixon signed the bill into law on June 23, 1972, it was intended to level the playing field between girls and boys in the educational opportunities that were presented to them.  Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 states:

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance."

The law set out to prevent sex discrimination and harassment in any education activity or program, whether public or private.  It covers a wide range of areas, including fairness in college admissions and financial aid, freedom to take any vocational courses (so boys can take what was once called “home ec” and girls can take wood shop) and providing education for pregnant students.

Yet Title IX is most associated with sports because of its impact on high school and college sports for young women.  Under the law, “The athletic interests and abilities of male and female students must be equally and effectively accommodated.”

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Fewer women enrolling in STEM classes in community colleges
March 22nd, 2012
01:30 PM ET

Fewer women enrolling in STEM classes in community colleges

by John Martin, CNN

(CNN) – While it has been argued that science, technology, engineering and math may open the door to more job opportunities, it seems that fewer women are pursuing those courses of study, at least at the nation’s community colleges.

A study released Tuesday by the Institute for Women's Policy Research says that while women represent a majority of college graduates overall, only 27.5% of Associate’s degrees and occupational certificates in the STEM fields were awarded to women in 2007. Cynthia Costello, the study’s author, found that women are losing ground: This statistic was more than 10% higher in 1997.

Underrepresentation in STEM fields at community colleges may be part of the reason women lag behind men in the STEM workforce. According to the study, women make up almost half of the American workforce but only around a quarter of the STEM labor pool. Data presented in the study shows that women are leaving some STEM fields. From 2000 to 2009, the number of women working in computers and math dropped about 3%.

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Filed under: After High School • College • Policy • STEM • Women's issues