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Category: 05. 3/7 Gender and Science (Page 1 of 2)

The Two Faces of Science

Carter Liou

3/6/17

STS 112-WA

 

When I think of the term science, words such as objective, factual, and unbiased are the first that come to mind.  This is no surprise, seeing as how the term “science” comes from the Latin word scientia, denoting knowledge.  The establishment and pursuit of scientific knowledge has long been conducted by means of setting up a hypothesis– which is then investigated through an experiment– and ultimately produces data.   This is, however, merely a facade: science, like any human activity, is not an objective product of human intelligence, but is rather subject to emotion and bias. The theory that science has been heavily influenced by society is supported by the fact that women throughout history have been mostly excluded from the field itself.  

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Women have faced discrimination in the field of science since the foundation of Greece.  For example, in Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, women were often times viewed in a negative manner, and were subdued to prevent disaster.  This can be further observed in the story of Pandora and her box. Despite this negative outlook on women,  Greek Mythology incorporated goddesses such as Artemis, the goddess of hunting, and Athena, the goddess of wisdom and warfare, who symbolized very non traditional female roles at that time. However, they are consistently overshadowed by their male counterparts: for example, Artemis was said be less skilled than her twin brother Apollo.   

 

Greek mythology and literature, being incredibly misogynistic, had extensive influence over the Greek people.  The greek philosopher Aristotle was one of the first to argue that women had specific societal roles due to both their innate tendencies to appeal to emotion rather than logic, and their biological makeup representing a “mutilated man.”  Today, we know this to be far from the truth. The question that remains, however, is how could such a prominent figure in science such as Aristotle believe something as vacuous as the idea of women being mutilated men? The answer lies in the societal factors that plagued his time and that ultimately shaped his view of women.  That is not to say that I am defending Aristotle’s misogynistic opinions, or condoning his beliefs. Rather, I am arguing the fact that the influence of society extends to all people, including those who contributed to the field of science.

 

The 20th century was still faced with the same problem: an overall exclusion of women in science.  Despite the many successful women such as Though there have been many successful female scientists–Marie Curie, Rosaline Franklin, and Rachel Carson, for example– many educated men continued to believe that women were biologically inferior and were therefore unfit.  James Mckeen Cattell, a former professor at Columbia University, was one of the major drivers of this continued misconception of women. He stated that women had failed to succeed in departments assigned to them by men, meaning that they were not fit to work in scientific fields.  Not only was this false, but it also reflected the fact that women were still limited due to their sex and the preconceived notions that society had placed upon them. Again, society had triumphed over the so-called “unbiased” and “uninfluenced” image commonly attributed to science at the time.  

Today, we are still met with problems concerning the integration of women into science.  Improvements have been made [passive voice] , but the unequal treatment of women in many of the hard sciences still highlights the extent to which the field has been influenced by opinion.  Will science ever reach an equilibrium between men and women? The answer remains unknown, but what is known is that both sides will only reach a balance when society favors neither sex.  

We need more women in STEM, but how?

Some like to say things are getting better. Compared to several hundred years ago, to the men’s only scientific society, today’s situation is much better. On first glance, yes, I agree. It is obvious, right? Previously women could not even participate in science and now they are all over the field. We are not even close to the point of equality, however, and the concerning part about this is not in the numbers. Basing the argument on statistics, one would say we are almost there. A few more decades maybe and STEM will not be a guy’s club anymore. I say otherwise, the numbers do not show the extent of the issue and we still have a long road ahead to equality.

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Why She Deserved It: Her Legacy and Hope

She was in utter confusion. She had read the entire 120 meters of data countless times, but, with each reading, her understanding remained unreached. She had not seen anything like it in the past, but, after months of further perusal, an explanation was finally found to make sense of this uncanny discovery, which led to the awarding of the Nobel Prize. However, the award was never given to her. She did not get was she rightfully deserved.

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Writing the Code to Women in STEM^2

Gender plays a crucial role in STEM^2. Aristotle considered women naturally subservient to men with mental differences. Despite this, women fought the idea and have made progress in fields like biology and psychology. In contrast, inequality in science is present in some scientific fields. For example, the first computer was invented over 70 years ago, yet men still dominate the computer science field. This occurs through structural inequality. The fields of science and technology needs to promote women. Continue reading

Women in Science and Technology

The roles of men and women have changed dramatically in contemporary society.  Women have gotten more freedom to express themselves and take an active part in the development of technologies, despite the fact that there are still problems in this field. People realize that gender equality is one of the components of healthy society and true development is impossible without it.  Only understanding the contribution women can make to the development of science and technology can bring positive impact on the development of the field.

At the present moment all over the world, with small exceptions, women take an active social role and demonstrate their abilities in a lot of fields. Nowadays women are active in the good production industry, natural resource management, education, as well as community management. Women occupy different positions in these spheres and professions and the spheres mentioned above are mostly considered to be female ones. A large percentage of women work in the medical industry, as well.

Despite growing technological development and popularity of feminism, women still do not possess an equal position in society.  Although women make up approximately 50% of the global population, they have access to less than half of the resources in terms of technology, financing, land, training and education, and information. A lot of specialists believe that true progress and development are not possible without women’s active participation in these processes.  The gender lens would be an essential contribution to the development of STI and would enable people to meet global changes.

History shows a lot of examples of great input made by women to the development of science and technology. The  Scientific and industrial fields, as well as other technological industries are influenced and dominated by men. Despite the fact that there are women who have played an important role in the development of the industry, their names are rarely mentioned.  For example, Ada Byron King, the daughter of the famous Lord Byron, became the first computer programmer. She also was a prominent mathematician. Unfortunately, her name is rarely mentioned in the history of the development of the computer industry and when people speak about this sphere they remember the names of famous male specialists. Earlier history also contains data about the famous female specialists in science and technology, but their names are even less remembered than Ada Byron King’s name. Hypatia, an Egyptian mathematician, made great contributions to the development of science, inventing the hydroscope and the plane astrolabe. Maria Gaetana Agnesi made a great contribution to the science through her work in differential calculus in 1700s. Sofia Kovalevskaya worked in 1800s in Russia. Her contribution to the development of astronomy and mathematics is vastly important. In recent history, it is worth mentioning Grace Hopper, a woman with a PhD in mathematics. She became one of leaders in the field of software development and made a great contribution to the development of new programming techniques. Grace Hopper became the first to recognize possible profits people could have from the use of computers and she did a lot to put her ideas into practice. She realized that making the computers easier to use would increase their popularity among ordinary people. In this way she made her contribution to the computer revolution and made computers more available.  This case illustrates not only women’s ability to achieve high results in the fields of science and technologies, it also demonstrates the way female brain works. In contrast to men, who think about complicated schemas and complex technologies, women take into account the sphere of application and use this to make technology more available for people.

Despite an unfair amount of neglect from the “higher ups” in the field of science and technology, not every great female achievement has gone unnoticed. Today, women are becoming more and more prominent in these areas and are surging forward as the world becomes more progressive.

The male precedent in science is yet to be overcome

Growing up, I had never felt like anything was preventing me from becoming a scientist. I felt as though women had equal opportunity to become scientists, and that they could do so just as easily as men. I still certainly had a great respect and appreciation for women scientists in history, as evidenced by the fact that I chose Marie Curie on dress up as a famous person day in fourth grade. Yet I certainly did not grasp the full extent of the struggles early women scientists like Marie Curie faced, and the fact that these struggles are far from over for women in science. Although there has been a rapid improvement in equality for women scientists in recent years, the male precedent that has been set in science is certainly not yet overcome.

In our society today, science is still largely dominated by males. The number of male professionals in many fields of science is still much greater than the number of females. Although the number of women in life sciences, such as biology, is approaching 50%, women are largely outnumbered in most other fields of science. But why is this the case? In our country, at least, women are offered equal education to men. They should technically have equal opportunity to become scientists. Yet, the cultural standard that has been established that science is undeniably male is far from demolished. Because of this precedent, women tend to gravitate away from these male dominated fields, sometimes without even realizing it.

Another obstacle is the lack of female role models for prospective young female scientist to look up to. This is do to the lack of female professionals in the field, and the underrepresentation of females in the history of science. Upon any google search of famous scientists, a long list of predominantly white males appears. Why are women so underrepresented in the publicized history of science? It is true that women have historically not had equal opportunity and education to become scientists. Yet, there are certainly many, especially in the past 50 or so years, who have made extraordinary contributions to science. With the exception of Marie Curie and Rosalind Franklin, I had never heard of most of the women scientists mentioned in our lecture on Monday, and certainly not known of their influential contributions. It is not that these women have less remarkable achievements than their male counterparts, but they seem to have been simply overlooked, or even excluded, from the history of science that is commonly known and taught.

Without even realizing it, our society continues to portray science as a predominantly male domain. This portrayal only continues to further the problem, because instead of highlighting the important role women have played in science, it diminishes it. We need to be more recognizant of the influential contributions women have had in science up to this point, and therefore encourage increased involvement of women in science in the future. Female scientists should be rightly acknowledged and praised for their work, creating inspiration to bring the participation of women to rival that of men in the field of science.

Just Getting Started

Today we see women in lab coats and safety goggles holding beakers on covers of college pamphlets. We see female surgeons in TV shows such as Grey’s Anatomy. And today we even discuss great female scientists, such as Jane Goodall, in biology classes. As a women I feel I speak for many in saying all of that makes me proud. But how far have we truly come? As we celebrate the number of women in STEM2 and commemorate pioneers such as Katherine Johnson,  we must be careful to not romanticize, but rather continue building on the progress we have made. Continue reading

Science: In need of women

         Women are not portrayed in scientific history. Whether, you are scrolling through books from the scientific revolution, or you are surfing the web for memes of scientists, all you are going to see is a bunch of old dudes poking around with their scientific instruments. This lack of portrayal of women in science is a result of men refusing to accept women into scientific society and thinking them less intelligent and less suitable to scientific pursuits. Clearly, they are wrong. Scientific prodigies such Joanne Simpson, and Caroline Herschel, for instance, were outperforming the majority of men in the field. Despite the small number of women scientists, without them, science would not be advanced to the point it is now. It is essential to increase the accessibility and inclusivity of science to women because women will improve the world with science in a way that men do not, and the outcomes of women in science will benefit the natural environment.

         It has been proven that women have different brains and ways of thinking than men, meaning they could come up with solutions that men may not be able to come to. Women have significantly thicker cortices than men, which have been associated with high scores in a variety of cognitive intelligence tests(Science Magazine). Why men would exclude women who are smarter than them in certain aspects is clearly not the result of women’s inferior intelligence. Philosophers, such as Aristotle, were mistaken in believing that men were smarter than women(womenpriests.org). The exclusion of women from science is based entirely on false beliefs of intelligence, feelings of insecurity, and a desire to be dominant over their female counterparts. These ideas are both trivial and backward. Besides from being morally corrupt and sexist, the scientific anomalies that could be achieved with the neurological differences of women should not be thrown away. Women’s brains are complementary to men’s in the respect that the hemispheres of the brain are more connected in women than in men(the guardian). This is not to say that women’s brains are better or worse than men’s, just different. If men and women were to work together in scientific fields it is probable that they could come to more solutions, and make more connections than had they limited their scientific peers to those of their own gender. Furthermore, women, purely based on biological differences, will have different scientific and moral viewpoints, both of which must be incorporated into the advancement of science and education to make it as successful as possible.

         Educated women, namely in science, will better their own lives, which will ultimately lessen environmental impacts. In areas with low education the birth rate is extremely high(NYTimes). Increased birth rates increase the population, resulting in an increased environmental impact from humans. It has been statistically proven that women with higher levels of education will have fewer children than their less educated counterparts(NYTimes). This makes sense. With an understanding of birth control and their own biology, they will be empowered to limit the number of children they have,  which will limit population growth. Furthermore, a large reason why people in developing areas have so many children is that they need their young to help them with manual labor as they grow old. However, when women enter the field of science, they have access to higher paying jobs, that require less physical work(Business Insider). This will allow them to work when they are older, and it will allow them to build more savings. As a result, the need for their children to take care of them as they age will disappear. As the necessity of children goes away, the rate of childbirth will go down, decreasing the global population, which will lessen environmental impacts(prb.org).

        The fact that women are excluded, to any degree, from science is outrageous. Why, based on gender alone, for that is all it is, should people be excluded from pursuing an academic pursuit? I would say the answer is the fear men have of losing their dominance over women. That, and the deeply ingrained train of thought in male society that, for whatever reason, women are not meant for science, and instead should stay home with their kids and cookies. This train of thought and feeling of insecurity needs to end. Women in science will better the world. They will complement the scientific ideas of men, and they will challenge and reinforce them in different ways. Women in science will better themselves by increasing their own personal wealth and knowledge, and they will benefit the natural world in doing so. So, for crying out loud, can we please include them in our scientific pursuits!?

Sources

 

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2013/dec/02/men-women-brains-wired-differently

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/04/study-finds-some-significant-differences-brains-men-and-women

http://www.womenpriests.org/traditio/infe_gre.asp

http://www.businessinsider.com/highest-paying-jobs-for-women-2015-10#13-nurse-practitioner-8

http://www.prb.org/Publications/Lesson-Plans/HumanPopulation/Environment.aspx

 

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