They say that anything’s possible. I mean, just look at the folks in the UK, displaying their ability to do anything! You go Glen Coco! There’s a big difference, however, between what you are able to do, and what you economically, socially and politically can do (as our British friends are discovering right now…). Just because women in Saudi Arabia are able to drive, doesn’t mean they can drive. Do you see where I’m going with this?
Just because I am able to succeed in a male dominated profession, doesn’t mean I can. I’m not talking about the typical so-called ‘men’s jobs’ that one would assume – building, plumbing, electrical work, road workers, etc. No, I’m talking about STEM. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics. I want to say STEM careers are ‘traditionally male dominated’, but like nearly everything that isn’t dressmaking and housekeeping, of course they’re traditionally male dominated, because only a few decades ago only men could possibly have these jobs.
I’m at university, studying for a science related degree and when I look around in the lecture halls that hold upwards of 500 people, for every aspiring male scientist, there is an aspiring female scientist furiously scribbling down notes before the lecturer changes the slide. The disparity comes later. When we graduate. After we’ve donned our caps and posed for photos with our parents (who claim our successes as being down to their own genome). The reality that female scientists face is scary.
Providing confirmation for what we already suspected, Stanford University found that women with a Master’s degree earn the same amount as their male colleagues who only have Bachelor’s degrees. When I apply for a job, I may well be turned away after inadvertently disclosing the fact that, yeah, I might like a family one day. Which is taken as ‘she’ll leave the research facility to have kids, and therefore we’ll hire Joe Bloggs before her because he won’t want kids’. An assumption that is all too real and unfair to both me and Mr Bloggs.
Sexism in science is rampant. Take Tim Hunt for example. This man is a Nobel Prize winning biochemist, who, at the World Conference of Science Journalists, told the press, “let me tell you about my trouble with girls … three things happen when they are in the lab … You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticise them, they cry.”
I’m currently restraining myself from banging my head against the keyboard. This happened only last year. LAST YEAR.
When will we move past the archaic mindset regarding women in science? Women have so few heroines to look to in science, the addition of a few more success stories would increase our presence in the science field, tenfold. Take Marie Curie, Rosalind Franklin, Sally Ride, and New Zealand’s own Karen Wilcox, for example. I wouldn’t blame you for not knowing of these women, nor their monumental successes (though I’d suggest googling them immediately!). They are just far outweighed by the likes of Einstein, Schrödinger, Turing and Rutherford.
Science, whether you like it or not, is the saviour of humanity – it’s everything we know, from smart phones to medicine. It has ended (and no doubt will start – but that’s another story) wars.
I hope, in my lifetime, STEM will be enthusiastically encouraged as a career path for women.
Sure, we female scientists might fall in love and cry – but over our research projects, Mr Hunt, not over you.