Cox and statistics for girls

In reply to an enquiry from Pat Barber of Frankfort, Indiana, concerning a career in statistics, Gertrude Cox replied on 2 December 1959:

I believe very strongly that girls should prepare for a profession, even though their main aim is to get married. If you are interested in science and mathematics, these are the backgrounds on which statistics is built. Of course, a well-rounded education in communications, history, economics, and languages is essential.

The field of statistics as a basic science can be oriented towards the mathematical emphasis or towards the use of statistics to serve other fields. For our training of experimental statisticians we require a substantial amount of education in other sciences such as biology, physics or chemistry.

The area of statistics is most interesting and challenging. With a B.S. degree in mathematics, you would be somewhat limited to computing, but this is better paying than secretarial work. A higher degree in statistics would permit you to move along about as far as you wish.

In this area of experimental statistics, we cooperate with the research workers in other science areas with the planning and then with the evaluation and interpretation of their research results. I could give a list of a variety of interesting areas in which I have cooperated such as, the best methods of raising flowers in a greenhouse, development and selection of new varieties of corn, the nutritional problems among the Indian children of Guatemala, how to sample gold in South Africa, variations in ways to make instant frosting for cakes, how to evaluate the effectiveness of fly sprays, and many others.

The field of statistics is certainly wide open to women. If you are willing to take the mathematics and science courses and then work very hard to get beyond the junior level, there are all sorts of opportunities to go as far as you wish.

JOC/EFR May 2010