For two female science teachers in San Diego, chemist Rosalind Franklin, and primatologist and anthropologist Jane Goodall were their inspirations. Today, on International Day of Women & Girls in Science, The Children’s School teachers said they hope to be just as influential for the next generation of female scientists.
Diana Quincannon and Kym Lohnas are longtime teachers at the La Jolla School where both focus on science education, while serving as role models for young minds.
Both women are among the minority of workers involved in the science, technology, engineering and math workforce. In fact, although more women are in the STEM industry than in previous years, they still make up just one of four jobs in the sector, according to a 2020 study by UC San Diego Extension.
The study also found, “Women in STEM earn $20,000 less per year than men in STEM, the pay disparity increased by 3% between 2010 and 2015, and has remained stable at 23% in recent years.”
Another report noted that, while “women dominate the teaching profession, they are somewhat less numerous among middle and high school math and science faculty.” The same report also found “girls who went to high schools where at least 72 percent of the math and science teachers were female were 19 percent more likely to graduate from college with a science or math major.”
Quincannon and Lohnas both said they hope to increase the presence of women in the STEM industry with their presence.
“I hope my students learn that science can be fun and innovative,” said Quincannon, who has been teaching at The Children’s School for seven years. “I hope they feel empowered to find their own answers to their questions. Our students see women excited about science every day and it helps them get excited about it as well.”
In fact, until this year, women made up the entire middle school science teaching staff.
“If I have any small part in inspiring a student to love science enough to choose that as a career I’ll have done my job,” Quincannon said. “It’s like touching the future.”
But it isn’t just about representation in the STEM sector. Quincannon said research will grow as a result of having a diverse industry.
“The more young women we can get and keep in the STEM pipeline, the more innovative and diverse our discoveries and research will be,” she said.
For Lohnas, teaching science is about helping children develop tools they can use in their own lives.
“I think that participating in science at a young age is important,” said Lohnas, who has been teaching at The Children’s School for 12 years. “I find it easy to get elementary age students excited about science, and I hope that my female students carry this curiosity with them and that it overrides any discouragement they may feel by being outnumbered in the field.
Gender equality is another lesson in life, she said.
“Gender norms are a misleading social construct that can lead girls to believe that they are less capable in certain domains, such as science, which is definitely a false narrative,” Lohnas said. “I hope to see female scientists engaging in the field with the confidence that they belong and have much to contribute.”For more information about The Children’s School, go to tcslj.org.