As part of extra-curricular activities in school, the students were grouped under different clubs – arts, science, sports etc. A friend and I signed up for science. As it turned out we were the only two girls in the boys dominated club. As if that wasn’t enough, during a few initial meetings an uncongenial atmosphere isolated us; we were made to feel that we did not belong to the culture of the lab and mathematics and were thus pushed out of the exclusively male fellowship.
We were too young and in a minority of two, to protest against this definite sexist bias which decided, that women were not meant for science. There was an implicit subconscious perception that these ‘brainy’ subjects were only for men. Women did not have the requisite aptitude! It did not matter that this female student with me beat every boy outright in mathematics. That was decades ago.
Subsequently I have understood that this discrimination holds true even today in every sphere of science, where women are high achievers but are not given credit for their accomplishments. Women with measly resources, societal pressures and undermining workplace atmosphere fight escalating battles to attain great breakthroughs, only for their male colleagues or husbands to be supplanted on the pedestals meant for them. Does this tantamount to theft of intellectual property and recognition?
Unfortunately, the “science = male” stereotype is making it harder for female scientists to get promotions they deserve. Yes, even in 2019.
A two-year study published Monday in Nature Human Behavior examined how 40 scientific evaluation committees decided which researchers should get promoted to plum positions. It found that most scientists on the committees — whether they were men or women, and whether they worked in particle physics or political science — unconsciously associated science with men — Sigal Samuel
Women still remain underrepresented in the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Let’s look at the statistics of the Nobel Prize
Marie Curie, who won chemistry (1911) and physics (1903) Nobels, her daughter Irène Joliot-Curie (1935), Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin (1964), and Ada E. Yonath (2009) are the only women among the 175 chemistry Nobel winners. Physics counts just two women among its 204 awardees, and physiology or medicine has had only 12 female laureates out of 211.
These 17 women represent about 3% of the total number of science awardees since the Nobels started. Women, meanwhile, make up about 50% of the global population. A possible sign of improvement, Hargittai said, is that about 6% of 21st-century science Nobels have gone to women, compared with only 2% in the 20th century.
Whether women’s representation among Nobel Prize winners will continue to improve is still an open question.
But Hargittai suggested that passages from medical physicist Rosalyn Yalow’s 1977 Nobel ceremony banquet speech are worth remembering: “The failure of women to have reached positions of leadership has been due in large part to social and professional discrimination. … We must believe in ourselves or no one else will believe in female scientists.
This link to an article in the National Geographic is about six women scientists who were ignored due to sexism despite their groundbreaking discoveries. Do not miss reading this story of injustice perpetrated over and over again. It undoubtedly proves that as yet, unfairness against women scientists hasn’t disappeared; it remains covert. There are many stellar women who have been denied their rightful place in history while their male associates/partners continue to bask in the glare of sponged-off glory.
Will we ever rid ourselves of this gender gap? Or will it continue to stealthily re-enforce stereotypical prejudices? Will women, not just in sciences and Nobels, but in every sphere of life get merely symbolic representation and recognition? Once again we come to the conclusion that we need to rise over individual egos, unlearn old mental conditionings and let each one ascend to his full human potential regardless of genders.