Cartoon depicting that science is a bridge between men and women.

Can Science Be A Bridge for Gender Equality?

What is the status of women in science? How to increase the level of women’s participation in science? How science is bridging the gender gap and what are the steps taken to reduce gender inequality via science education.

Cartoon depicting that science is a bridge between men and women.

Gender equality is the symbol and identification of building heaven on earth. Everywhere discrimination is existing, and among them, gender inequality is one of the prime roots for many problems, which we must eradicate soon. Could science education bridge the gap between men and women?

As we are populated equally in this world, but we are maintaining strong gender stereotypes. Why such inequality? Gender equality has been a vital activism forefront for the betterment of the world. Imagine a world with no gender discriminations and stereotypes; it would be an environment with flourishing outcomes, where everyone follows morality across society.

“Science and gender equality” are the predominant development goals for the future included in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

How can science be a bridge between genders? It is well-known that science has been the secret for all top-ranking countries. Nations like Sweden, Finland, and Norway maintain gender-neutral policies in all the sectors exhibiting the example of the happiest living place in the world. Well, business industries proved that gender-diverse teams are more profitable and innovative. Beyond the business world, following the same equality and practices in science and technology, would shine any demographic plateau with all its boundaries.

Trees with man and woman face are seen an ecological park on the Yeongsan River in Gwangju
Image Credit: Korea Tourism Organization

In our society, explicitly, we can notice that boys or men are attracted to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) based careers, and girls or women are attracted to HEED (Health, Elementary Education and Domestic) based occupations. Various researches report that such diversion among the genders to choose STEM or HEED depends on parenting, cultural force, ability, and governmental policies.

Parenting/Cultural Force

Though parents and society shape future generations, they imbibe self-efficacy in both the genders from childhood. Chang’s team revealed in their research, “mothers, much more used numbers and quantities related conversation with boy child compared to girls”. Chang’s research shows that Self-efficacy, “Belief of one can succeed in a field,” is seeding in them from childhood either in boy or girl toward the selection and attraction of STEM-related career path.

Ability

The recent article in the Physics World concluded that ‘superior reading skills’ of girls motivated them to choose humanities-based professions, HEED. In other words, boys are better at spatial tasks and mathematics, and girls are better at verbal recall tasks. However, these gender-based abilities could not drive toward the selection of STEM or HEED. Instead, social pressures and cultural norms (stereotypes) influence the gender-based curriculum.

Government Policies

Aiming for a better and good future, most of the government makes policy for the gender-neutral approach in all the domains and step ahead in practice by implementing. We list examples of such policy amended by the Nordic countries below.

 Country Policies for gender equality
 Iceland Fines for companies with gender wage gaps
 Norway Paid mandatory parental leave
 Finland Flexible Schedules
 Sweden Flexible Schedules
 Denmark Partially subsidized and affordable childcare

On February 11, 2020, International Day of Women and Girls in Science, UN secretary-General told, “To rise to the challenges of the 21st century; we need to harness our full potential. That requires dismantling gender stereotypes. On this International Day of Women and Girls in Science, let’s pledge to end the gender imbalance in science”. Toward the empowerment of women and girls in science, United Nations adopted a resolution declaring 11 February as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science from 2015.

Women Nobel prize laureates  - International Day of women and girls in science

The global communities are working flawlessly to engage women and girls in science. Even with all these steps and measures taken, less than 30% of researchers worldwide are women. So far, only 12% of STEM jobs are occupied by women.

Remember Historic Women Scientists, Forget Stereotypes

Apart from these parenting/cultural forces, abilities, and governmental policies, another research exclaimed the interest of women to follow the HEED. The effect of historically made stereotype impression indirectly plays over the women’s self-efficacy toward the selection of HEED courses. To overcome this challenging situation, we can look at our history, how renowned women scientists passed over the challenges like gender discrimination, lack of recognition in the scientific community, see the list of some women scientists in history. Such historic scientific contributions and achievements of female scientists are not only for the advancement of science and technology (STEM); also, it proves that women can reach many heights equally and more than men in STEM fields.

Some Women Scientists in History

  • Marie Skłodowska Curie (1867 – 1934), The Polish-French Physicist and Chemist [First woman in history to win two Nobel prizes]
  • Lise Meitner (1878 – 1968), The Austrian Physicist
  • Alice Ball (1892 – 1916), The African American Chemist
  • Gerty Cori (1896 – 1957), The Czech Republic Scientist in Science and Medicine
  • Ida Noddack (1896-1978), The German Chemist
  • E K Janaki Ammal (1897-1984), The Indian Botanist and Plant Cytologist
  • Dorothy Hodgkin (1910 – 1994), The British Chemist
  • Chien-Shiung Wu (1912 – 1997), The Chinese Physicist
  • Anna Mani (1918-2001), The Indian Atmospheric Physicist
  • Marie Tharp (1920- 2006), The American Mapmaker
  • Katsuko Saruhashi (1920-2007), The Japanese Geochemist

Most importantly, we must consider the time and effort required to achieve such heights in the STEM-related subjects. Those who have a passion for science can break up the critical limits and reach the heights. McClintock, the only woman, won an unshared Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1983, said, “If you know you are on the right track, if you have this inner knowledge, then nobody can turn you off,” also she said.“No matter what they say.”

Recently, Katherine Johnson (1918-2020) (also known as Katherine Goble), a famous American mathematician, passed away at 101 (February 24, 2020). She has broken the barriers of racism through her knowledge and wisdom. Her calculation for the orbital trajectory made her life into the historical path.

Certainly, the contribution of women in the tech industry is huge paving the way to solve real-time day to day issues through digital platforms and devices. Their energy and intelligence channelized into potential solutions of upcoming needs, nurture the belief and assurance of budding engineers and software developers.

As a responsible present generation citizen of this world, let us pledge to seed our historical women scientists in the subconscious mind of our girl children to choose a STEM career path toward gender equality.


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