Even in the 1970s, the sexism I experienced was rarely obvious. I grew up in a privileged, loving home with few barriers that might prevent a bright, confident young woman from succeeding in whatever field she took it in her head to enter. All this led me to suspect that the reasons for the scarcity of female physicists must be subtle, and those reasons must lie buried in the psyches of the women who loved science and math but never completed their degrees or, like me, earned their degrees but left their fields. . . . By trying to understand why I didn't become a physicist, I hoped to gain insights into why so many young women still fail to go on in science and math in the numbers their presence in high school classrooms and their scores on standardized tests
What I discovered shocked me. Although more young women major in physics at Yale than when I attended school there, those young women told me stories of the sexism they had encountered in junior high and high school that seemed even more troubling than what I had experienced: complaints about being belittled and teased by their classmates and teachers, worries about being perceived as unfeminine or uncool. . . . The same forces that caused me to feel isolated and unsure of myself at Yale continue to hem in young women today, acting like an invisible electrified field to discourage all but the thickest skinned from following their passion for science, a phenomenon that turns out to be less true in other countries, where women are perceived as being equally capable in science and math as men.