A lot of works has been done to empower women in the field of science, using voluntary representation in technical lines or switching to print media . Women writers who spoke for the equality of the women helped a lot in drawing attention of the fellow women towards science, helping them efface their fear and turning to science for building their academic pursuits
Jede Wadges ‘s book is inspired by Ruth Hubbard, the first woman to achieve tenure in biology at Harvard. Her course on biology and women’s issues that she took in 1983 helped Jede to see the tendency for male scientists to use biology to affirm patriarchy. Hubbard wrote numerous books and articles on this topic. Hubbard stood before a lecture hall of undergraduate students, wearing corduroy jeans and walking shoes, with wispy salt and pepper hair in a braid. She showed us that there were scientists who believed the Victorian stereotype of the active male and the passive female, and that these scientists imposed their beliefs on their research, whether it was with animals, humans, algae or bacteria. Hubbard often described these scientists as “promoting a self-fulfilling prophecy”.
“The reason for the survival of these recurrent [biological] deterministic theories is that they consistently tend to provide a genetic justification of the status quo and of existing privileges for certain groups according to class, race or sex,” wrote Hubbard and several of her colleagues in the November 1975 issue of the New York Review of Books. They critiqued sociobiology, a new field that argued that men and women had different capacities and abilities as a result of the different roles they played hundreds of thousands of years ago as hunter gatherers.
As a result of Hubbard’s course,Jede wrote her undergraduate thesis about how male physicians in the United States from 1870 to 1920 portrayed women’s biology as inferior to men’s. They urged young women to stay away from further education and focus on their reproductive function instead.
“What an ingenious way for the elite male community to keep women in ‘their place’. And it seems ludicrous to me that any portion of the population — male scientists, etc — would try to break off women as a subset of humanity and try to prove them to be inferior,” she wrote in an essay.
“I realise the factor of self-interest, but discouraging competent, skilled, intelligent women seems to be against the better interest of society. Unfortunately, the frantic search for biological sex differences persists today as it did a hundred years ago.”
Decades later, this search for biological differences persists. Thousands of women scientists around the world are asking why.
Hubbard died in September 2016, but she would be glad to know that a new wave of women scientists is pushing back against the old debates, and disagreeing with men like Strumia, Pillay and Damore. In the month that Hubbard died, Margot Lee Shetterly published Hidden Figures, the book that was made into the film of the same name, about African-American women mathematicians, such as Katherine Johnson, who played a critical role at Nasa in the 1960s.
In 2017, Angela Saini, a British-based science writer, published Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong — and the New Research that’s Rewriting the Story. In the same year, Wade, a British physicist at Imperial College, began writing hundreds of Wikipedia entries about unrecognised and overlooked women scientists. Wade, who works in experimental, solid-state physics, was in the audience when Strumia gave his talk. She says: “When people in positions of power spread such ideas, they teach the next generation of scientists that such behaviour is okay. Obviously, it isn’t.”
On social media, there is growing attention to women in STEM with hashtags including #WomeninSTEM, #WomeninTech, and #STEMinists. Only weeks after Strumia’s comments, Donna Strickland, along with Gerard Mourou, won the Nobel prize for physics, based on her breakthrough work with lasers.
Donna Strickland won a Nobel prize weeks after a male scientist said women were innately incapable of being scientists. The Mail & Guardian’s list of 200 Young South Africans this year revealed a growing number of women in science and the National Research Foundation states that “more black and women researchers are entering the field at considerably higher rates than previously”.
Thus , works are being encouraged by women in collaboration with the progressive male county to eliminate the gender based stereotypes thus making a way for setting up a more rational scientific temperament across the globe.
Ankita Boruah is a final year BSc Chemistry student at Cotton University, Assam