The way the trees on campus lose their leaves in the fall

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I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about a metaphor from scientist Hope Jahren…

As a person who completed an honours degree in political science in 1979 — at a time when my department lacked a single professor who was a woman — I’m sensitive to the issue of gender discrimination in higher education.

As a result, I read a recent New York Times opinionator piece, headlined “She Wanted to Do Her Research. He Want to Talk ‘Feelings’” with great interest. Written by physical sciences professor Hope Jahren, it tells the disheartening story of how women in science are being driven from their chosen professions by sexual harassment.

Perhaps because I attended a campus filled with deciduous trees, Jahren’s metaphor about women leaving her field resonated particularly with me. Here is what she wrote:

Yet, every school year, science, technology, engineering and math programs — known as the STEM fields — shed women the way the trees on campus lose their leaves in the fall. 

I also thought her use of the verb “shed” was both clever and appropriate. It carries the connotation of throwing something away or casting it off as if it were worthless and inconsequential.

Read Jahren’s article to learn more about the challenges facing female scientists.

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