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Category: 09. 10/31 Gender and Science (Page 1 of 2)

Women in STEM

I firmly believe that the gender gap between males and females in STEM-related disciplines is mainly caused by societal upbringing, not by biological differences. At the same time however, I think that our world today is coming around to make math, engineering, and science more accesible and welcoming to females through programs and initiatives, much more than even just ten years ago.

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The Perpetuation of the Gender Gap in STEM Fields

Within the last few decades, there has been an enormous push to increase the number of women in STEM fields. This is largely a result of the rise of today’s digital age where technological and scientific industries have started to dominate the labor market, thereby exponentially increasing the number of STEM-related jobs available. Despite these countless opportunities, why do men continue to dominate fields such as medicine and computer science?

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Gender and Science

The scientific community has been dominated largely by men. Many of the most famous scientists from history are male, however there are many female scientists who do not always get the same attention as others. These female scientists include Marie Curie, Rosalind Franklin, Dorothy Hodgkin, and many others. All of these women had a large role in contributing to our understanding of science today.

Science used to be a field participated in exclusively by men. Women were not allowed to learn science even at all female universities, as it was believed that the best scientists would end up being men anyways. During the war effort, many of the men were soldiers in the army. During times like this, women were encouraged to take on many of the roles that men had been doing to help the war effort run smoothly. These jobs were rarely scientists, however, as the smartest scientists in their fields were obviously better off conducting research rather than fighting in the army. After the war, women went back to their lower paying jobs that they had before, however now the knowledge was in the air that they could perform any job just as well as the men could.

Science has recently become a more coed field of study, with female scientists being much more common today than they were in the twentieth century. Even though this is the case, there is still not an even split between genders in the scientific world. An example that I have seen even in my own life is a lack of women in physics classes. In high school senior year I was taking AP Physics. The class had around twenty kids, however only three of them were girls. Even in college right now I am taking a course in Astrophysics, and only two out of the fifteen or so students in the class are female. This shows that even though the situation has gotten better when it comes to women in science, we still have a long way to go before there are truly equal numbers of each gender.

Women in Science

Since the dawn of science the field has been mostly controlled by men. Most scientists in history were males and they seem to be the most focused on when teaching others about the history of science. However, there are many female scientists that sometimes get forgotten. Marie Curie, Jane Goodall and Maria Mayer are three examples of extremely famous scientists in their respective fields but who sometimes get passed over. These three women are regarded as three of the most famous female scientists but yet some may not have heard of them. The male perspective in which we view scientific history decrease the population of women scientists within the respective fields.

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Women in Engineering

Throughout history, women have been steered away from math and sciences. American culture emphasized the ideas of a classic woman. Ideals around women centered around looks, home life, and taking a back seat to men regarding employment. In the early 1900’s women had set roles that were very difficult to change. American men who dominated many fields were very biased on what women could accomplish, especially in math and sciences. There were very few women that were encouraged to enter into math and sciences. When women would decide to pursue professions like engineering, they faced discrimination every day in their fight to gain respect.

Since World War II, the influence of women in math and sciences has increased substantially. According to Amy Bix, World War II was one of the turning points for women in Engineering. During this time many colleges and universities created programs to get women involved in engineering to help support war efforts. The need for women to help the war effort gave opportunities for hundreds of women to become involved in these university programs. As women learned and grew into their roles, there was still a lot of discrimination. Many colleges rejected the idea of giving women any opportunities and questioned their ability to be engineers. Women had to prove every day to society they were worthy of engaging in that type of work.

Once women took on a more significant role in engineering after WWII, this created a more considerable amount of interest for women to pursue the field. These programs gave a path for women to establish themselves in engineering and also provided new role models for women to follow. Over time women pursuing engineering has grown substantially and there are so many more chances for women to get Jobs. As Amy Bix explained, the field is still not perfect for women to enter, but the improvement has been substantial since WWII.

Sacrifices in Engineering

For decades, society was under the impression that technological and engineering innovations were thought to be “male territory” only. In today’s world, women working in the engineering business have people like Amy Bix to thank for that. Bit was an engineer in the early 20th century, and in her piece, “From “Engineeresses” to “Girl Engineers” to “Good Engineers”: A History of Women’s U.S. Engineering Education”, she depicts the struggles and oppression experienced by women in the workplace, particularly as engineers. Bix was an extraordinary women with passion and conviction, and with that, was able to “To improve the climate for women in education and employment, activists organized to call attention to problems and demanded change. To aid women directly, female engineers created systems of social, psychological, and financial mutual support”. Bix was entirely aware of her surroundings; she had a complete understanding of where women were ranked in the workplace, and knew what was necessary in order to move them up. She was organized and efficient as she knew she would need to fight tirelessly to end such a popular stigma: that women did not belong in the engineering workplace. This was made evident constantly: “Engineering education in the United States has had a gendered history, one that until relatively recently prevented women from finding a place in the predominantly male technical world”. Masculinity was something women were not able to escape in the late 20th century, but women like BIx were able to have influence: “women studying or working in engineering were popularly perceived as oddities at best, outcasts at worst, defying traditional gender norms…activists fought to change that situation, to win acknowledgment of women’s ability to become good engineers”. Bix was fighting an uphill battle; gaining proportional representation in the workforce of engineering was long down the road, and nevertheless, Bix “undertook conscious, passionate campaigns to break down institutional barriers”. It is because of women like Bix that “In 1979, women made up 12.1 percent of undergraduates enrolled in engineering across the United States; by 1998, that percentage had gradually risen to 19.7 percent”. Slowly but surely women were able to work their way up in the workforce of technology and engineering in the late 20th century. We are fortunate to have women like Amy Bix to thank for her dedication and sacrifices that have significantly bettered the world we live in today.

Gender and Science

For many centuries women have been discriminated against in many different ways, but most recently there struggle has come in the workplace. Since the 20th century women have had similar rights to men, though they have been directed towards more feminine professions and lives, such as being a stay at home mom or housewife. But even women that make it in the professional world rarely make it into fields in science such as engineering or physics.
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The Solutions to Gender Discrimination in Science

Over the past 100 years, women have made incredible strides in gaining reputations in scientific fields such as engineering and medicine. From Rosalind Franklin to Jane Goodall, the incorrect stereotypes surrounding women in the 20th Century have diminished. However, the current situation is not perfect, and there is still work to be done to reduce the gender gap in scientific opportunities. Numerous studies have shown women in STEM professions publish less, get paid less for research, and hardly reach positions as high as men. Using Amy Bix’s presentation coupled with background information in women’s studies, I will present potential solutions to gender discrimination in modern day science.

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