(Re)Imaging Women in STEM connects the experiences and images of women STEM faculty at the University of Virginia to two narratives. In one narrative, women were denied access to equal education on the basis of tradition and values, such as the beliefs that men should run government and society, that women don’t need education to fulfill their social roles as wives and mothers, and that, biologically, women are less intelligent than men. Together, these cultural forces conspired to prevent co-education at the undergraduate level at UVA until 1972. Yet, pioneering women attended UVA as early as 1892. This is a story of exclusion, as well as a story of how women overcame exclusion, won acceptance, and achieved excellence in an unwelcoming community.
In a parallel narrative, today’s women scientists and engineers across the world are using social media to combat sexism and discrimination and build community. By sharing their stories and connecting with each other and the public, these women are changing our cultural assumptions about who belongs in STEM professions by revealing everyday discrimination and by challenging persistent stereotypes. These local and global narratives overlap in the space of exclusion and belonging.
Do you belong here? In this lab, at this university, in this profession?
The local and global narratives bring the oral histories and portraits of UVA women faculty together as part of a broader history that challenges and reframes what we often take for granted—that in order to be accepted, women (and other outsiders) must learn to adapt and shape their lives to the power dynamics in which they find themselves. Often women must hide their unique stories and experiences of difference in order to gain acceptance into male-dominated fields and institutions. In this exhibit, they make themselves visible.
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© Copyright 2017 by the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia
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Sponsored by the NSF ADVANCE AWARD #1209197.