Sometimes you have to analyze mistakes from the past to create a better future. Making a more concentrated effort to involve women and girls in science is therefore an important part of this effort to build a more equal future.
Until recently, science was dominated by men. However, we are slowly moving towards more authentic equality. If you ask a girl or boy to draw a scientist, most will probably draw the same thing: an old man in a white coat. Just think of Doc from the movie Back to the Future.
In a similar vein, if you ask people to name a woman who has devoted her life to science, most would find it difficult to name anyone other than Marie Curie.
Rita Levi-Montalcini, Lise Meitner, Sophie Germain or Marie Anne Pierrette-Paulze are not well-known names. Perhaps this is because men like Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin, Nicola Tesla or Louis Pasteur have completely overshadowed them in the world of science. Men have always had more opportunities, better positions and more prestige.
Does this mean that very few women have devoted their lives to science throughout human history? Not at all. The problem, however, is that most were eclipsed by men.
A great example is Mileva Maric-Einstein, Albert Einstein’s first wife. According to her biographers, she was a fundamental part of Einstein’s theory of relativity, which eventually won a Nobel Prize.
Women and girls in science
February 11 is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. The UN has set a number of concrete goals for progress over the next fifteen years, one of which was to end inequality in science.
Science, technology, engineering, math… The presence of women in these subjects is increasing, which is great. That said, decisive factors will determine the future of equality. Let’s take a closer look at those aspects.
The burden of gender bias
According to UNESCO reports, less than 30% of the world’s researchers are women. Similarly, only 3% of female students in higher education choose studies of information and communication technologies (ICT). Women represent only 8% in science, math and technology.
Do women just not have the skills to work in these disciplines? This is clearly not the case. But there is a problem. The effective admission of women and girls into science requires the elimination of gender bias. Today, children aged seven to eight already harbor ideas about what is “girls” and “what is boys.”
Young children usually imagine male engineers, scientists and professors. These kinds of prejudices need to be corrected from a very early age if we are to promote gender equality.
Encouraging girls to get into science and spark their scientific curiosity would certainly bring about some significant changes.
Why aren’t there more women in important jobs in science?
We must face one indisputable reality. As we move up in professional development, we see fewer and fewer women.
There are more men than women in management and decision-making positions. Why? In general, the problem is the failure of policies that promote equality. Society still sees male scientists as more capable.
In addition, the biggest challenge that women scientists often face is reconciling motherhood with their professional careers. Often women are unable to take on a job with more responsibility because there are no mechanisms to support working mothers enough.
There is another important factor to consider. The well-known ‘Matilda effect’, invented in 1993 by historian Margaret W. Rossiter. According to Rossiter, people value the work that men do more than the work that women do.
Female scientific progress and discoveries by women are often overshadowed. Or, worse, a man ends up taking credit for a woman’s work. As a result, the female scientist is left out, cannot get money for her work, is not published and does not get a promotion.
Women and girls in science: a hopeful future
In short, we should teach girls that they can be whatever they want to be. Let’s open their eyes to the vast world of the cosmos, to the small universe of genetics and the amazing possibilities in technology. The integration of women and girls in science requires education and opportunities.
All boys and girls, regardless of their situation or country of origin, should have the opportunity to study the subject they are interested in. After all, passion leads to scientific and technological progress.
Having people in the field who are really interested in their work is what makes it possible for people to move forward. If we raise children equally and allow them to develop professionally without prejudice and obstacles, then everyone wins.