Women breaking barriers to advance in science and technology

As of 2019, the Nobel Prize has been awarded to 919 individuals and 24 organizations. 53 women have won the Nobel Prize, about 5 percent of the total Nobel winners.

Female Nobel Laureates, as well as hundreds of thousands of female scientists and inventors around the globe, are exceptionally remarkable given the profound inherent barriers and prejudices they must strive to overcome. There are parents who believe it is a waste of time to provide education to girls; women are often not recognized by universities and professional associations; employers who do not want to hire or pay equally; the woman scientists must thrive 1000% harder to balance between career and family...

However, all the big obstacles that stood in the way could not keep the female scientists and innovators frompursuing their dreams.

Nearly 2,500 years ago, Egyptian mathematician and philosopher Hypatia was believed to be murdered by the order of a Bishop of Alexandria. To this Bishop, Hypatia represented the many of the unacceptable: being an intelligent and non-Christian female scientist. However, this is not the only case. In many societies since ancient times, men have been valued more and have taken steps to prevent women from gaining knowledge and power.

According to an article on Tia sang Magazine, before the 1960s of the 20th century, most middle class male historians, with a very conservative attitude, impose their values ​​on all cultures, throughout historical periods and stereotype women’s responsibilities solely towards motherhood and performing housework. Therefore, they tend to dismiss any evidence of women's presence in science, technology, or medicine that they come across. For example, the historians of science believe that the medical studies of Trota of Salerno, a 12th-century female doctor, were actually belong to a man named Trotus, but because the information was inaccurately transmitted so the wrong name was mistakenly recorded. The female mathematician Sofia Kovalevskaia was also perceived not to be an actual mathematician but a husband or some male mathematician who undertook the research for which she was named.

Hertha Ayrton, born in England in 1854, who as a teenager changed her name after the German Earth goddess “Hertha”. She became an electrical engineer; and has published a series of articles and textbooks on the subject. However, at a meeting of the Royal Society in 1902, she was prevented from presenting her work and her article must be read by a man during the meeting. The Royal Society also declared their disapproval of women until 1945.

Sophie Kowalevski, born in Russia in 1850, became a famous mathematician, despite the disgusts towards intellectual women from her father. As a young woman, she would have to study math and physics in secret. She got married in order to escape from her father’s oppressiveness and continue to pursue formal education. However, the marriage turned out to be a disaster. When the couple moved to Berlin, she had difficulty finding a university that allowed female to earn a degree. Luckily, a famous mathematician agreed to mentor her and eventually, Sophie Kowalevski earned her doctorate and continued to be famous in her field.

Over the past decades, women have achieved significant progresses and are slowly removing barriers; however, there are overwhelming evidences that women are still underrepresented in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, engineering and math). Studies show that women pursuing these professions face explicit and implicit barriers to advancement.

According to a survey by New Scientist Magazine in 2019, the average income of a female scientist is 35,600 pounds (47,500 USD), while that of men is 45,800 pounds (61,000 USD), which is 22% difference.

In addition to issues related to the gender pay gap, according to an article on BBC, the structure of academic science often makes it challenging for women to get ahead in the workplace and to balance work and other commitments. Bench science can require years of devotion in a laboratory. The strictures of the tenure-track process can make maintaining work-life balance, responding to family obligations, and having children or taking family leave difficult, if not impossible.

Additionally, working in male-dominated workplaces can leave women feeling isolated, perceived as tokens and susceptible to harassment. Women are often excluded from networking opportunities and social events and left to feel they are outside the culture of the lab, the academic department and the field.

When women lack critical mass – of about 15 percent or more – they are less empowered to advocate for themselves and more likely to be perceived as a minority group and an exception. When in this minority position, women are more likely to be pressured to take on extra service as tokens on committees or mentors to female graduate students.

With fewer female colleagues, women are less likely to build relationships with female collaborators, to support and advice networks. This isolation can be exacerbated when women are unable to participate in work events or attend conferences because of family or child care responsibilities, as well as an inability to use research funds to reimburse child care, the author of the article specified.

In addition, women in science face stereotypical stereotypes, when  all of us – the general public, the media, university employees, students and professors – have ideas of what a scientist and a Nobel Prize winner looks like. That image is predominantly male, white and older – which makes sense given 97 percent of the science Nobel Prize winners have been men Research shows that hidden stereotypes against women, as experts and academic scientists, are pervasive. It shows through the assessment, recognition and assumption that men are more learned than women. The implicit stereotypes can be detrimental to women in recruiting, raising wages and evaluating their work - BBC News indicated.

Over the past few decades, many approaches and solutions to strengthening women's representation in STEM fields have been implemented at national and global level. From educational reforms to increasing female students' participation in STEM, to family-friendly policies, increasing transparency in salary reporting, implementing measures to protect women's rights, targeting women to recruit, research support and advancement.

In particular, the provision of mentoring programs, award funds to support and promote female scientists has proven effective. These prestigious awards has motivated and helped provide resources for female scientists to focus on research and creativity. Thus, their groundbreaking contributions in science and technology become invaluable inspirations, encouraging millions of other women to enter into professions that appear to be only male privilege.

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