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Shirley Malcom

Education administrator and science education advocate Shirley Malcom was born on September 6, 1946 in Birmingham, Alabama to ¬Lillie Mae and Ben Mahaley. From an early age, she wanted to be a doctor because of her love of biology. At George Washington Carver High School, Malcom was a top student and graduated in 1963. She then attended the University of Washington and received her B.S. degree in zoology in 1967. Malcom went on to attend the University of California at Los Angeles where she graduated with her M.A. degree in zoology in 1968. She taught high school biology in Los Angeles before attending Pennsylvania State University where she obtained her Ph.D. degree in ecology in 1974.

After completing her education, Malcom joined the faculty of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington as an assistant professor. In 1975, she moved to Washington, D.C. where she began working as a research assistant in the Office of Opportunities in Science (OOS) of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She co-published “The Double Bind: The Price of Being a Minority Woman in Science” in 1976. Then, Malcom served as a program officer for the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Science Education Directorate. She became head of the AAAS Office of Opportunities in Science in 1979 and head of the AAAS Directorate for Education and Human Resources Programs in 1989. In 1993, Malcom was appointed to the National Science Board by President Bill Clinton and in 1995, she became a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She was also named to the President’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology from 1994 until 2001. Malcom has authored several reports on engaging women and minorities in science and is considered a pioneer in the field.

Malcom has served as co-chair of the Gender Advisory Board of the United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development and has chaired many national committees on scientific education and literacy. In 2006, she was named co-chair of the National Science Board Commission on 21st Century Education in STEM. Malcom serves as a trustee of California Institute of Technology and a regent of Morgan State University. She has sixteen honorary degrees, received the University of Washington’s Alumna Summa Laude Dignata Award in 1998, the university’s highest honor and in 2003, was given the Public Welfare Medal of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Shirley Malcom is married to Horace Malcom and they have two adult daughters.

Shirley Malcom was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 9, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.060

Sex

Female

Interview Date

3/8/2012

Last Name

Malcom

Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

M.

Schools

University of Washington

University of California, Los Angeles

Pennsylvania State University

George Washington Carver High School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Shirley

Birth City, State, Country

Birmingham

HM ID

MAL06

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Alabama

Favorite Vacation Destination

Paris, France

Favorite Quote

What Doesn't Kill You, Makes You Stronger.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

9/6/1946

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Fried Chicken

Short Description

Education administrator and science educator Shirley Malcom (1946 - ) is head of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Directorate for Education and Human Resources Programs. She is a pioneer of minority science education serving on the National Science Board and the President’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology.

Employment

Los Angeles Schools

University of North Carolina, Wilmington

American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

National Science Foundation (NSF)

National Science Board

President’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology

Favorite Color

Black

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Shirley Malcom's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Shirley Malcom lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Shirley Malcom describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Shirley Malcom talks about her mother's growing up

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Shirley Malcom describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Shirley Malcom talks about her father's growing up

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Shirley Malcom talks about the demographics of Alabama

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Shirley Malcom talks about how her parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Shirley Malcom describes her parents' personalities and who she takes after

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Shirley Malcom talks about her childhood neighborhood

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Shirley Malcom talks about her high school

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Shirley Malcom describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Shirley Malcom talks about her elementary school experience

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Shirley Malcom talks about her experience at Lewis Elementary School

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Shirley Malcom talks about the significance of Sputnik to aspiring scientists

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Shirley Malcom talks about her teachers at Lewis Elementary School

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Shirley Malcom talks about her interest in television, radio and football

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Shirley Malcom talks about her grandmother registering to vote

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Shirley Malcom talks about voting challenges for black people during the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Shirley Malcom talks about the bombing of Bethel Baptist Church and Sixteenth Street Baptist Church

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Shirley Malcom talks about Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Shirley Malcom reflects on her experience of being a student during the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Shirley Malcom talks about her involvement in the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Shirley Malcom talks about her decision to attend the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Shirley Malcom talks about the civil rights disparities that women face

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Shirley Malcom talks about her experience at the University of Washington

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Shirley Malcom talks about the disparity of educational resources between minority schools and white schools

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Shirley Malcom talks about innate scientific ability

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Shirley Malcom talks about her decision to forego medical school

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Shirley Malcom talks about her social life at the University of Washington

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Shirley Malcom talks about her experience at the University of California in Los Angeles

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Shirley Malcom talks about her studies at the University of California in Los Angeles

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Shirley Malcom reflects on the challenges in her personal life during her graduate studies

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Shirley Malcom talks about Pennsylvania State University, where she received her Ph.D. degree in ecology

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Shirley Malcom describes her dissertation on the factors that relate to the termination of imprinting in birds

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Shirley Malcom talks about football at Pennsylvania State University

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Shirley Malcom talks about her professional activities with the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and the NAACP

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Shirley Malcom talks about the book she published called, 'The Double Bind: The Price of Being a Minority Woman in Science'

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Shirley Malcom talks about her work at the National Science Foundation and the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Shirley Malcom talks about her work with the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Shirley Malcom talks about her professional activities and the importance of STEM education

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Shirley Malcom talks about her work with the United Nations (part one)

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Shirley Malcom talks about her work with the United Nations (part two)

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Shirley Malcom talks about women's access to science education

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Shirley Malcom talks about her professional activities with the AAAS

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Shirley Malcom reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Shirley Malcom talks about her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Shirley Malcom talks about society's perceptions of scientists and celebrities

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Shirley Malcom reflects upon her life choices

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Shirley Malcom talks about her family

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Shirley Malcom reflects upon how she would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

6$5

DAStory

2$5

DATitle
Shirley Malcom talks about her professional activities and the importance of STEM education
Shirley Malcom talks about the book she published called, 'The Double Bind: The Price of Being a Minority Woman in Science'
Transcript
Early 90s [1990s] you're saying--?$$Yes, it would be, it would have been kind of the early 90s [1990s]. And so we had a number of places apply and we had independent selection process and the people came here for training cause we wanted them all to do something that related to building math skills, whatever they happened to be. And then we basically sent them computers and they established community computing centers. We were trying some of everything. The notion is that we saw, we found holes we wanted to plug you know. We were trying to help communities, trying to build awareness to start with and then trying to build strategies so that you would get some sense that you weren't at, you know you weren't hanging out there by yourself. I mean there were things that you could do to try to move this. At the same time that you're trying all these projects, you're also trying to establish or support policies that you knew in the long run would likely provide federal resources or something for undertaking these efforts. You were protecting disaggregated data because you know if you lose it you're not going to be able to keep score and know how, know if you're making any kind of difference. So you're working on various fronts you know all at the same time, building, trying to build capacity in organizations, trying to build awareness in the scientific community, trying to get other organizations within the scientific community to take on some of these issues. So you have lots of different stuff going on at any one time. In 1989, there was a reorganization that pulled not only office of opportunities but also the general issues that relate to science education as well as public understanding of science into the same unit and I became the head of that unit. And again this was a situation where you are coming to understand that this is a system's problem and you've got to figure out how to take on different parts of a system be it K-12, be it higher education, be it graduate education, be it community engagement and community literacy that you've got to build partnerships, that you've got to reach out beyond yourself. You have to engage the media, the technology and what have you in order to make a difference. I had the opportunity too to kind of do more in the policy world and around the policy, and the policy area to effect things as well. I served on the National Science Board, the policymaking body of the National Science Foundation and participated in their efforts around strategic planning, around the systemic initiatives that they undertook. I instigated the activity that eventually led to the change in criteria at the foundation that--around broader impacts to try to get people to focus on the fact that it was great to be able to do your research but maybe we should be able to expect that you would do things to support education, do things to support diversity, do things to support other kinds of worthy efforts and initiatives within the sciences and engineering. And I served on President Clinton's counsel of advisors se science and technology at the same time and so trying to lift the discussion to the numerous agencies, trying to help people understand that this was an area of national need. We had once again returned to the Sputnik [1957] moment. It might not look like it but we were there again and that if we didn't really understand that the demographics were headed in one direction but we really weren't capitalizing on the need to build talent out of all those groups that had been marginalized in the past and we had a real problem. And so we were trying to change the discourse and tried to get the science community to own this problem at the same time that we could get the national policies to own all of this as an issue that had to be addressed. And I think that to a very large extent we look at, we look today and we listen to President Obama and his remarks, he's there. He gets that in fact that we--that stem education is critical to being able to move ahead in terms of our national security, our defense, our health, our economics but also that we have to be very smart about talent development and talent utilization. But you, when I think about kind of the odyssey that it has taken to kind of get to that point it's really amazing that we can still be having this conversation this many years later. You know I have these regular moments of deja vu all over again. I was you know I undertake on a--I can get an open slice of time every once in a while to start trying to attack the mess in my office and I'll find a speech that I gave in 1980 something and I read the presentation. I shouldn't, I should just go on and file it. But I read it and I thought oh my goodness this is too fresh. I could have given this speech last week. And I think that as much progress as we have made and the numbers tell us and we have in fact made progress, as much progress as we have made, the movement has been glacial. I mean it's so slow but we have just, we are just not taking hold of these things with the speed and urgency that is really required.$Okay. Now in '76 [1976] you wrote, you published 'The Double Bind'--$$The Double Bind.$$--The Price of Being a Minority Woman in Science.$$Yes.$$Okay.$$And that was, it was interesting how that happened. The person with home, for whom I worked said at that time, what's it like basically to have these two things hitting you at the same time? She had gone to a meeting of people who were writing projects that related to minorities in science. There had been no women there. Then she went to a meeting on women in science projects and there had been no minorities there. And I said to her, I said what it is like is that you're in no person's land because if you--for example you go into a living room and you have a lamp that's there and there's a switch on the lamp and there's a switch on the wall. The switch on the lamp can be on but the wall switch isn't. The wall switch can be on but if the lamp switch isn't on the lamp still won't light. Essentially the light, the wall switch has to work and the lamp has to be on in order for anything to happen. I mean it's similarly that you know this notion of following slavery when the amendment was put in place giving blacks the right to vote, black women couldn't vote. You know so women were arguing at the time that women should, white women should be allowed to vote before these illiterate black men who had been slaves. But until both of those things happened, we weren't going to get the vote. So it didn't matter who you told, who you tossed your hat in with, nothing was going to happen for you until both of those things happened. And that's really the major issue that we began to understand as women of color that early on we might be more affected by the issues of being members of minority groups in terms of our early education. But at some point we were also going to be hit by sexism and the realization that there were certain things that women were expected to do and not do. And that we, until both of those sets of conditions were addressed that we weren't really going to be able to progress. And not having being able to put those ideas, to articulate those ideas and begin to understand what might a pathway be for women of color, I mean that was the first time that that had actually been discussed as an issue. And trying to help people understand what that was like was a really hard thing to do and it was a hard thing to do in terms of putting it to words. One young woman who wrote me at the time kind of--after she found 'The Double Bind', she was looking for something that spoke to her to the situation that she felt at the time. And I was trying to help her sort through it and make suggestions about what she should do as she was trying to map out her life, is now the Dean of the College at Harvard [University], Evelyn Hammonds. She was at Spelman [College] when she wrote to me after that book. And it means a lot that she felt that for the first time that someone understood, someone was articulating her reality. And unfortunately while a lot of things have changed from that reality, a lot of things haven't changed from that reality. There's a recent piece that I did with my daughter for Harvard Educational Review that kind of brings it, this up to date at the thirty-fifth anniversary you know of 'The Double Bind.' And we entitled it, 'The Double Bind-The Next Generation,' you know looking at how now younger women are experiencing some of the same issues that their mothers did and how, what is likely--what we now understand is likely to be necessary in order to really address these things.$$Now culturally, did you get more, I mean for those who were aware of what you wrote, did you get more pushback form the black community or the white community?$$Did we get pushback?$$No, from those who actually read what you wrote, did you get more pushback from the black community or the white community or did it make any difference?$$Okay, that's a hard one. We got probably more pushback from black males. White females didn't like it either because in a way when you're kind of in the middle of a women's movement the idea that you're going to call out that our separate needs aren't being addressed. And largely our separate needs weren't being addressed, partly our separate needs weren't being addressed because there was this in some corners kind of a condemnation of what, of the behavior of all men. And what we were trying to say is, hey wait a minute. Our brothers have issues, have had issues trying to move ahead as well. So even though they aren't necessarily being the most supportive people right now by saying we, you know we're calling out things that we need to keep in the family--I mean you think about it. You think about the civil rights movement and you think about the fact that the women in many cases were organizing things and they got pushed to the side. You don't hear about the women who were critical in the civil rights movement.$$Like Ella Baker [Ella Josephine Baker, African American civil rights and human rights activist].$$Yeah. You don't hear about Ella Baker. You don't hear about Diane--$$Nash [Diane Nash, student leader and strategist of the 1960s civil rights movement].$$You know, you don't hear about them. You may hear about Dorothy and I think that Dorothy Height [Dorothy Irene Height, administrator, educator, social activist: former head of National Council of Negro Women] who was a great supporter of our work because she understood this science/technology connection to really being able to take hold of one's future moving forward. I think that she, they gave her some props because she was senior to them all you know. And, but you know how that worked. It was, there was the expectation that you provided the coffee, you provided the support, you made the signs, you did whatever, but you were not out in front and that was a part of the reality. Did people like to be called on it? No. And I think that that's just the way it was.