It’s a baffling statistic: over a period of 39 years — from 1973 to 2012 — only 66 African-American women earned a doctorate degree in physics. Compare that to the 22,172 white men who earned their doctorate degree during the same time (a ratio of 1:333) and you realize something’s seriously wrong. It’s a problem of “double discrimination” where both women and people of color as groups are less likely to earn a higher physics degree. There are several reasons for phenomenon: girls are often steered away from math and science at a very young age, and people of color — black and Hispanic students specifically — have fewer resources to get into college in the first place. Once those students eventually reach the college or doctorate level, those biases continue. Talking to Quartz, LaNell Williams (who is starting a Masters/Ph.D bridge program in physics in the fall) and Jami Valentine (who started the website “African Americans in Physics” and earned a Ph.D at Johns Hopkins) both explained how hard it can be to find a community when there is no one in the program “who looks like you.” There are reasons to be optimistic, however, as the number of black women with physics doctorates has been (marginally) increasing since the 1990s, and there are now several highly successful African-American women physicists to look up to.
Read the full story at Quartz.