Inspired by the topic for my communication studies exposition, I have decided to pen my thoughts on women in science, and in particular those about the discrimination that they face. This is of particular importance to me, since my intended field of study is in the sciences, and I am both female and a feminist.
On a whole, fewer girls pursue scientific careers. For example, in the US, women make up about 48 per cent of the workforce, but hold only 24 per cent of the scientific jobs. One of the major reasons this occurs is that it is said for you to enter STEM related fields, you have to be good at Mathematics, and it is said that as compared to boys, girls just simply aren’t. While it is statistically true that generally, girls underperform as compared to boys in Mathematics, there isn’t much evidence to suggest that it is caused by a biological difference. Contrary, there is much support by the scientific community that the difference occurs because of sexist beliefs, which mature into gender discrimination. For example, a study by Science Magazine in 2008 found that the gender inequality within a country corresponded to the gap between the performances of girls as compared to boys in Mathematics. The author of the study posited that girls believed they would not be successful in fields such as the sciences, because they did not possess the innate ability to succeed. This is to say that we have been telling girls to do well at science requires a talent with which one is born, and because you are female you do not possess it. Furthermore, the belief that girls are predisposed to being poor at Maths can lead to them not receiving equal attention as their male counterparts in school, an example of gender discrimination.
However, let’s suppose that a girl overcomes this bias and enters university with dreams of pursuing a scientific career. She will then have to overcome gender bias within her university, as again, studies show (for example one done by Scientific American), that when equally competent female and male students vie for jobs such as lab supervisor, the male student is twice as likely to be selected, and the professors in the experiment were more inclined to mentor the male student. These little biases overall work out to female students having to work harder to achieve the same quality of education as their male counterparts.
Finally, if a girl overcomes all of this and enters the scientific community as a researcher, it is still quite possible that she will not be credited for her contributions to science. In fact, it happens so often there’s a whole terminology dedicated to the phenomenon, known as the Matilda Effect. You can read more about it and read the details of the women’s stories online.
What can we do? Well, if we want to see a change, the first thing we need to do is to stop perpetuating stereotypes. We need to also empower and educate our girls so that if they do face discrimination in university, they will be equipped to both recognise and deal with it.