Beauty company and science scholarship provider L'Oreal surveyed 1,000 Americans this spring and asked them to name a single female scientist. The result was an EPIC FAIL! While 97 percent of respondents believed that women could make significant contributions to science (personal aside: terrible three percent, you're probably that uncle everyone hates. I hope you choke on your sandwich.) 65 percent could not name a sole woman in science.
This is troubling, because while the number of women earning science and engineering degrees has risen to 43 percent of total students (nerdy graphs here), apparently Americans still don't know female scientists are out there workin' hard. There's a lot of reasons for that discrepancy — for one, women are more likely to become social scientists, like sociologists, that some Americans might not equate with the test-tube, primate-poking image of "scientists." America also lacks high-quality science education in our schools, much less education about specific women and their contributions to our scientific knowledge. But there's also a huge discrepancy in the presence of women in nationally-visible science positions. The Association for Women in Science points out that female membership in the National Academy of Science is 15 percent lower than it should be based on the number of female science grads.
Bah! To school yourself on some awesome female scientists, check out a list compiled by Jen at Scientific Blogging. My personal favorites are 20th century stars Jane Goodall (who has an amazing life story, leaving home bound for Africa at age 26, returning to Africa years later with only her mother and a cook to set up her primate research center AND THEN 45 years later giving a lecture in Des Moines that made me cry) and DNA-researcher Rosalind Franklin, who was immortalized in the great graphic novel Dignifying Science: