Cleveland Math Department Pushes For Female Representation

By Kira Chan, Editor-in-Chief

Female students and staff at Cleveland are currently challenging the historically male-dominated STEM field curriculum and pursuing high level math classes.

Cleveland’s math department has five female math teachers and five male math teachers, the only PPS school with an equal amount. The two highest level classes in the school are Standard Level (SL) and Higher Level (HL) Calculus, both taught by female teachers.

“I love that the old stereotype of math and science fields being dominated by men does not always hold true,” said Pre-Calculus and Algebra teacher Carolyn Hintz. “We need to break the mold and show young people that women are just as capable of success in STEM fields as men.”

While Cleveland’s math staff is equally divided in regard to gender, the same statistics are not seen in the student body. In Cleveland’s only IB HL Calculus class, taught by Samia Estassi, there are only seven girls out of the 33 students.

“[Having seven girls] can unite the other girls in the class because there are so few of us, and so it can be a way of respecting yourself and the other girls around you and recognizing how hard we work,” said senior and HL Calculus student Eva Morris. She also discussed the intensity of the class, regardless of gender. “I feel like the boys and the girls in the class are equally hard workers and they both equally care about math and are both equally intense.”

“I really appreciate that Ms. Estassi tries to sit the girls together. I know me and my desk partner communicate a lot more [now] than when I was sitting next to a guy because I just wouldn’t get listened to at all,” said senior and HL Calculus student Ariel Harmon.

Morris agreed that having Estassi as a teacher was an asset. “Having Ms. Etassi last year made me want to prove to her and myself that I could make it to the top math class,” she said. “Having a female teacher is also an advantage because she does voice her opinions on the fact that women are minorities in STEM professions.”

Estassi echoed this with regard to feedback from parents and students. “Not a year goes by without a student or parent acknowledging how much it meant for them or their kid to have a strong female role model teaching an upper level math class.”

Harmon also expressed that gender-domination is not subject to just STEM, but can have an impact on other subjects. “I think it’s just a different environment when it’s a class dominated heavily by one gender, like my Spanish class seems like it’s dominated heavily by females.”

Junior Haiying Kuang is currently in the SL Calculus class and plans to take the HL class next year. There are 14 girls out of total 23 students in her class, showing a difference with a female majority. This is also a change from the year prior, as Harmon stated that there were only two girls in her SL class.

“I think the disparity lies in the shift between SL and HL,” said Kuang. “The Higher Level class is known to be very challenging, so students may feel inclined to stop at Standard Level. The teachers have been encouraging us to go onto HL and teaching us some HL curriculum to prepare us, so hopefully there will be more female representation in the class next year.”

While there are small advances at Cleveland with female representation in STEM, Estassi noted that there is still progress to be made.

“In my engineering classes in the ‘80s it was mostly men and I certainly experienced the sexist male professor on more than one occasion, but it’s 2018 and sadly we are still dealing with many of the same issues.”

While going into a high level STEM class can seem difficult to pursue, it is worth the challenge. “Don’t be intimidated. You have just as much of a right to be in the place that you want to be as anyone else and women support women and your teachers will support you,” said Morris.

With an encouraging and representative math department staff, we can hope to see more female students in higher level math classes the future.