In the annual Westinghouse Science Talent Search almost 40 years ago, the top girl and the top boy each received prizes. Although it is unclear which gender benefited most from the dual awards, the judges presumably wanted to recognize the abilities of both boys and girls.

Despite the best attempts of the Talent Search and other efforts, women are still greatly underrepresented in the United States’ scientific and engineering workforce. This problem is suddenly achieving national attention because studies predict a shortfall of scientists and engineers in the 1990s, particularly at the Ph.D. level. Women are potentially the nation’s most available source of future Ph.D.s.

In her president’s lecture at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Feburary, Sheila Widnall, Abby Rockefeller Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT, noted that men and women of similar qualifications enter graduate school in the sciences, but...

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