CUA’s CenterStage Theatre Company: Starting A Conversation About Women in STEM

By Hailey Ibberson

The STEM fields face an unfortunate unequal ratio of men to women. I went to an all-girls, STEM school for four years before coming to CUA. This means I spent four years witnessing the brilliance of women and the strength of character they maintain through the hardships they inevitably face. I have spent the past few weeks studying the character Catherine in David Auburn’s Proof, which will be performed in the Hartke Lab Theatre this weekend, December 8th and 9th. Catherine is a women who gave up her life to nurse her ailing father and, upon his death, is left with a decision to face a world which she does not feel will appreciate her genius. Catherine shares with her father his talent and perhaps even instability,  but what she could not inherit from him is a respected place in society. Catherine hides her talent, struggling to confront it and it’s meaning. Though Catherine’s situation is augmented, we see her struggle in every life, even at CUA.

Try to note in your classes this next week how people ask questions. Women are taught to handle their learning style differently than men. Most females will preface a question with, “I am sorry.” Most males will not. We are trained by society to behave a certain way and, despite the progress we’ve made, this perpetuates the idea that women are less worthy of our time. Catherine is doubted and looked down upon despite both her genius and unwavering commitment to her father. Walking in her shoes these past few weeks has made me wonder how many women suppress their talent because they fear the world won’t appreciate it.

Towards the end of the show, without giving too much away, Catherine is ready to abandon her talent. Can you imagine how much the world will lose by discounting the brilliance of half the human race? We have come so far in the fight for equality, and I truly believe most people are on the side of change. Yet, we still face lingering anti-feminist mentalities that bleed into the threadbare of our society.

“I worked in the neurosurgery department at Mount Sinai the past two summers… I’ve been in countless surgeries and I’ve never seen a female as the (head doctor) in an operation,” Lisa Genadry, a CUA senior, said. “I can totally relate to the suppression of talent… There’s going to be a tremendous amount of additional work required of me to get to the same place (in terms of respect) as a man… I’m sure there are plenty of women who would have been great surgeons, but decided not to go down that road for the disrespect and the ‘out of place’ feeling that’ll come with (being a surgeon).”

It seems, both in Catherine’s and in Genadry’s stories, the largest hurdle to climb is that of respect. No woman in this case is complaining about doing the work that should be required of her. No woman is claiming she shouldn’t have to study or dedicate a tremendous amount of time and energy to her field. All we are saying is that women who do the work should get the credit. It seems so simple, like there should be a quick fix. There is not. But there is a necessity for open and comfortable conversation about the topic, and this why we do theatre. CenterStage may not be comprised mostly of STEM majors, but we understand this is story worth telling and we are so honored to be telling it. Join the Harkte Lab Theatre this weekend, December 8th and 9th at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., and be a part of the conversation. We hope to see you there.      

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