Helping young women stay in science

by Stephanie Chasteen on July 19, 2009

Hey all,

I think sometimes I overuse my wonderful readers for their great ideas but, well, if you didn’t have such good ideas, then I wouldn’t be asking you questions all the time!  Ah, the burden of greatness.

So, here’s the question of the day.  I’m working on a book proposal for a survival guide for young women in science, grades 10-14.  I’m working on a title.  The subtitle right now, which I like, is

Stories and Practical Tips for Young Women Who (Might Be) in Love with Science.

I want something catchy and hip and simple as a title.

One person recommended a riff on a romance novel, like “Love in the Age of Neutron Stars,” which I actually really like.  Another friend recommended “Two X Chromosomes” but I’m veering away from that because of the genetic connotations. “Creating a Curvy Path” could work with some cover graphic of a woman’s form and an integral sign.  “Geek Girl” or “GirlScience” or something straightforward could work, but might turn off girls who don’t see themselves as geeky.

“The Color of Clouds” or something that refers to science and dreams might be fun, but it’s a bit enigmatic.  Dear lord don’t let me end up with some goddawful title like “A Quantum of Solace.”

Something suggesting the linking of femininity and science, like “High Heel Science” or “Lipstick Science” or “Gorgeous Geeks” or “Stars Don’t Wear Skirts” or “Darling Amoebas” could be fun but it has to be a clear and catchy connection.

A riff off a science topic could work, like “The Non-Standard Model” or “Inflation Theory” or “Solve for X” (or “solve for XX”) or “Calculus of Variations” or “Let X=X” or something simple like “Momentum”. (hmm, kind of like that one).   “Differential Equations?”  “What’s your Sine?”

Something related to women’s struggles could work if it’s not a downer, like “What are YOU doing here?”, or “Round peg in a square hole”, or “How it Works” or something related to building women’s confidence, like “Shoot for the Stars” or “Success in Science”.

Ideas anyone?  Thoughts?


Jennifer Frazer July 20, 2009 at 12:03 am

“Reading Feynman at Lunchtime”.
(a la Reading Lolita in Tehran)
— implies geekiness/surreptitious interest in science.
I didn’t read Feynman in high school but I did read Sagan. Later I read Feynman, Gould and McPhee. Dawkins is another possibility, but somehow RFAL had the best ring to it to me. And reading Feynman is just awesome. Everyone should do it.

The true geek version of this would be “Reading Tolkien at Lunchtime. . . and Bedtime. . . and On the Bus. . . and In Class . . . ”

I did that too.

physicsandcake July 20, 2009 at 9:26 am

I’d be a bit cautious about going for something like ‘high heel science’ or ‘lipstick science’ as quite a lot of girls who are interested in science tend to be a bit geeky and of a tom-boy persuasion (I know I was!) and this might put them off reading the book somewhat.

Although to contradict myself completely, for some reason I think ‘Lab Coats and Lipstick’ would sound awesome…

On a purely grammatical note, if ‘science’ is in the subtitle it might be best not to have it in the main title too.

sciencegeekgirl July 20, 2009 at 7:51 pm

I really like “lab coats and lipstick” — that’s really catchy!

Some more suggestions I got off-blog along that line:
Skirts and String Theory (my fave so far)
Lipstick Laplacians (ugh)
Heisenberg in High Heels
High-Heeled Hamiltonians

Can you tell they were submitted by another physics geek? 🙂

And one more romance novel-esque suggestion:

Romance in the Quantum Age: A young woman’s guide to being in love…with Science

sciencegeekgirl July 20, 2009 at 7:58 pm

So far I like the following… any reactions?

Momentum: A young woman’s guide to being in love… with science

Lab Coats and Lipstick: Stories and practical tips for young women who (might be) in love with science

Romance in the Quantum Age: A young woman’s guide to being in love… with science

Love in the Age of Neutron Stars: A young woman’s guide to being in love… with science

Love in the Quantum Age: Stories and practical tips for young women who (might be) in love with science

Frank Noschese July 20, 2009 at 9:50 pm

My vote is for “Lab Coats and Lipstick.” The heart of the book is right in the title — science and women. With the others, the title is too vague…your target audience might look it over if it were on a shelf.

Fran July 21, 2009 at 1:03 pm

I like Romance in the Quantum Age. I think you should steer away from high heels, lipstick, anything too feminine (would have turned me off as a teen, as it does now), but all girls fall in love, I’m pretty sure. I like the word Romance better than the word Love, though, since romance is more thrilling, exciting, dangerous, while love is also something you feel for your parents and your dog.

Frank does have a good point about the “shelf appeal” but a good spine graphic can counteract that. Also, to me science is sooo not about the lab coat. Goggles!

Honestly I think you should try out the prospective titles on actual teen girls rather than on your loyal readers. I can supply you with a “focus group” if you are willing to wait a couple of months…

I think it is awesome that you want to write this book, and I am looking forward to featuring it on my science bookshelf at school and donating another copy to my school library!

sciencegeekgirl July 21, 2009 at 3:25 pm

Drat, turns out that Lab Coats and Lipstick has been taken… and that’s been the favorite of the people I”ve polled (here and elsewhere) so far. Other ideas?

Fran, I’d love to take more time with it, but the proposal is due in a few days. I thought I had a good title, but decided it wasn’t sexy enough… It can always change post-proposal, pre-publication. Most people have said they don’t like the “romance novel” type of title, because it suggests the book is about romances among scientists.

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