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Women in Science

Written by Jitka Fořtíková, Educational Specialist at Lipa

Women have always been a part of the scientific world, but their careers weren’t regarded as positively as the careers of men. Even now, there are many scientific fields where women are underrepresented, even though the number of women and men in the population is balanced. There are multiple reasons for this.



 

Women have always been and still are firmly tied to taking care of family and children. When they become mothers, they naturally develop a strong bond with their child so that they will take care of it in the first year of its life. Because of this, women in the past usually didn’t pursue the binding career life; this was expected from the father, whose role was to financially support the family.

The 19th century brought changes in understanding the role of women in society. Women began to appear more in public life, receiving more respect than in the past. The 21st century is even more closely connected to women’s emancipation, not only in science but also in politics, culture, and sports. Career is not a “bad word” anymore in connection with women. New types of family environments have appeared, where the family is being taken care of by the man. There are also families created on the basis of registered partnerships, where the parents are two men or two women. Nowadays, career self-realization is an important part of both men’s and women’s lives.

But there is still a significant gap between the number of men and women in the field of Natural Sciences, and fewer women hold management positions in big corporations. Various studies have shown that women in managerial positions receive lower salaries than men in the same positions. One of the many examples of this is a Harvard University study published in 1993, which states that the salaries of women in science and engineering with a doctoral degree are 20% lower than those of men. And there are many studies with similar statements.  

 

What can we do about it?

A part of the answer lies in social stereotypes. It’s generally presumed that girls are more inclined to study teaching, foreign languages, and social care, and boys are supposed to excel in maths, technical subjects, IT, and craftsmanship. One way to change the current situation would be to not encourage these social stereotypes in our children, but to let them choose their own path independently. We should adopt the same approach when we choose extracurricular activities for our children: for example, if your son likes dance, you shouldn’t steer him towards football instead, but let him learn dance.

Just as men are successful teachers, women are successful in the fields of molecular chemistry or interplanetary research. But they are not given enough attention. When we feel discouraged, we should remember Marie Curie Sklodowska, the first woman to win the Nobel prize for physics and chemistry for her outstanding results in radiation research. It’s these positive examples of successful female scientists that can encourage girls and women to become more interested in male-dominated fields.

At the moment, students’ interest in technical subjects is gradually decreasing, so it’s more important than ever to motivate all young people to pursue science, mathematics, and other careers of the future.