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BP’s Baggett reviews two women-in-science books

By Chemical Engineering |

Breaking into the Lab: Engineering Progress for Women in Science.

By Sue V. Rosser. New York University Press. Washington Square, New York, NY 10003. Web: nyupress.org. 2012. 249 pages. $35.00.

African American Women Chemists.

By Jeannette Brown. Oxford University Press Inc., 198 Madison Ave., New York, NY 100016 Web: oup.com. 2011. 264 pages. $35.00.

Reviewed by Lacey Baggett, PX2 TAR Superintendent, BP Corp., Houston 


The challenges faced by female scientists and engineers are highlighted in two books with wide-ranging implications for many industries. Jeannette Brown’s book follows the careers and lives of African-American women who have left lasting impacts in science, engineering and education since the mid-1800s. Highlighting both professional and personal struggles, the book is equal parts scientific history and inspirational biography. Each narrative shows how — and perhaps more importantly, why — these women were able to overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges to produce lasting contributions.

Sue Rosser’s book focuses on the current scarcity of female scientists in senior-level academic positions. This data-driven text explores the issues, and leads to a discussion of the impact of these trends on science, the economy, and on women seeking to pursue science careers. The book culminates in a series of suggestions to help turn the tide.

While the author may limit her potential audience by making broad generalizations about both sexes and leaning to the side of feminism, she is still able to convey her fundamental concepts to a broad population. Detailed studies discussed by the author provide the foundation, leading the reader away from sociological theories and instead focusing on institutional practices that have a greater impact on the development and direction of a female scientist’s career. The issues of junior- and senior-level women are contrasted throughout. This technique highlights progress to-date, while focusing on what more can be done to ensure continued improvement — so that the scientific community seizes the opportunity to take advantage of the considerable contributions of professional women scientists and engineers.

Interviews with successful women provide insight into several key areas: career-path opportunities; overcoming common pitfalls of a scientific career; and the pros and cons of a personal and professional life in science. Many issues addressed — including the struggles of creating an acceptable work-life balance — are applicable to all.

One prominent theme in both books is the impact of mentoring — both to help women enter scientific fields, and also to retain and promote them once they pursue science. A key premise for the book appears to be ensuring that mentors understand the experiences encountered by women scientists, so they can more effectively guide women during their careers. While the reader may be left with many unresolved questions of how to overcome the challenges in closing the gender gap, the author balances this by suggesting specific, practical behaviors for individuals, as well as providing realistic recommendations for mentors and institutions — all aimed at ensuring that women are valued and properly represented in the future.

Both books highlight the dramatic impact women can have, and are having, on science and engineering. Both encourage women to take ownership of their careers, by providing realistic tips for success and by relating inspiring stories of others. Both books would benefit a wide audience, including young women considering career paths, potential mentors, senior managers seeking to recruit and retain scientific women, and female scientists and engineers.



Piping System Fundamentals: A Complete Guide to Gaining a Clear Picture of Fluid Piping Systems. 2nd ed. By Ray Hardee and Jeffrey Sines. ESI Press, 4529 Intelco Loop, SE, Lacey, WA 98503. Web: fluidfundamentals.com. 2012. 160 pages. $95.00.

Petroleum Engineer’s Guide to Oil Field Chemicals and Fluids. By Johannes Fink. Elsevier Inc. 30 Corporate Drive, 4th Fl., Burlington, MA 01803. Web: elsevierdirect.com. 2012. 808 pages. $139.95. 

Distillation Engineering Handbook: Components and Troubleshooting. By Parthasarathi Chattopadhyay. Tata McGraw-Hill Education Pvt. B-4, Sector 63, Noida, UP 2010301, India. Web: tatamcgrawhill.com. 2011. 1,436 pages. $289.95.

Zero Waste Engineering. By Rafiq Islam. John Wiley & Sons Inc., 111 River Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030. Web: wiley.net. 2012. 488 pages. $195.00.

Sustainability in the Chemical Industry.By Eric Johnson. Springer Verlag. Heidelberger Platz 3, 14197, Berlin, Germany. Web: springer.com. 2012. 142 pages $129.00.

Statistical Thermodynamics and Stochastic Kinetics: An Introduction for Engineers. By Yiannis N. Kaznessis. Cambridge University Press, 32 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10013. Web: cambridge.org. 2012. 314 pages. $85.00.

Colloidal Suspension Rheology. By Jan Mewis and Norman J. Wagner. Cambridge University Press, 32 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10013. Web: cambridge.org. 2012. 393 pages. $140.00.

REACH for the Polymer Industry: A Practical Guide. By the Polymer REACH Consortium. iSmithers Rapra Publishing. Shawbury, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, SY4 4NR, U.K. Web: ismithers.net. 2012. 2012. 114 pages. $125.00.

Practical Guide to Hydrogenated Nitrile Butadiene Rubber Technology. By Robert Keller. iSmithers Rapra Publishing. Shawbury, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, SY4 4NR, U.K. Web: ismithers.net. 2012. 142 pages. $90.00.
Scott Jenkins



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