Once upon a time in history, there were times when women did not get a chance to go to school or get educated, learn in a class environment with male students. Then time has evolved and schools for females have opened. Schools where they were taught how to behave, cook and sew. Those were the times societies were heavily influenced by gender norms and taboos. Women had to fight for a proper education, the type of education male students received, the type of education where they were taught positive sciences, history and literature. The era’s patriarchal society, dominated by men and their concept of right and wrong, and the specific roles assigned to genders, agreed that the teaching of positive sciences to females were irrelevant, as women ought to be housewives and mothers, whereas men were supposed to work and provide for their family. Women’s pursuit of an equal education where they were taught positive sciences just like men is centuries long. To get the education they deserved, women first had to fight against the accepted idea of a “true” woman. They had to break the norms; the “natural jobs” of women were solely being a wife and a mother, thus the only education they received was domestic education, where they were educated, prepared for their lives’ jobs. The non-demostic education was perceived as a waste of time and resources, a derailment from the women’s actual jobs; being a housewife.
Once, the universities we all know to be today’s best educational institutions did not accept females to be their students, even if they did accept them, they did not give their rightfully earned diplomas after completing their programs. Only around the 19th century, women finally got to attend universities and recieve a higher education. Women of color had to continue their pursuit and only around the 20th century, they were accepted into universities. Many women in history fought for the next generation’s women, for the women they didn’t even know, for the women they wouldn’t even see in their lives. Thanks to them, today, we receive the same education as men receive and do the jobs once accepted as “men’s jobs”. Yet still, the attendance of females in STEM areas is very low. According to the UNESCO groundbreaking report Cracking the code: Girls’ and women’s education in STEM, only 35% of STEM students in higher education globally are women, and differences are observed within STEM disciplines. For example, only 3% of female students in higher education choose information and communication technologies (ICT) studies. The question in mind is, “Why are women not following degrees in STEM areas?”.
- Gender stereotypes
- Work environments that lack diversity. (mostly men work in the stem areas)
- Not enough encouragement
Women are not preffered in the STEM working environments due to negative gender stereotypes. Stereotypically, women are expected to look after their kids, do the home chores, cook, clean, etc. hence the gender gap of employement in the sectors. Women make up only about a third of NASA’s workforce. They comprise just 28 percent of senior executive leadership positions and are only 16 percent of senior scientific employees, according to a survey done by the agency.
Another problem for women is the wage gap. The most glaring problem in STEM careers is the wage gap. In 2017, females made an average of 20% less than males in STEM fields. (Catalyst, 2017) That means for every $1 made by men, females made only 80¢.
Additionally, the stereotypes affect the wage gap as well, causing more inequality. Multiple studies indicate that there is less of a pay gap for single or childless women than married women with kids. One such study was conducted by Harvard economist Claudia Goldin. She found that the gender wage gap was worse for women in their 30s. This is largely attributed to the fact that many women have kids in their 30s, taking leaves of absence or time off to raise their children.
However, the source of the problem causing the gender gap is the lack of encouragement. In science books, we alwasy see men. Newton, Einstein, Thomas Edison and many others. In VISION’s May 2021 issue, my friend Duru has talked about the second gender in STEM areas. There are many female scientists who have accomplished many great things, but are long lost in the pages of the old history book, not mentioned anywhere. I, personally, think that I can’t name 3 female scientists and their accomplishments, we haven’t seen any in our science books. Young women do not see other women, do not read about them, do not know their accomplishments, do not know their existence. How can they know them when only this year, when Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türeci found the vaccine for the COVID-19, in many newspapers, they were mentioned as “Uğur Şahin and his wife”.
Young women should be encouraged, they should learn about the female scientists as well as the male ones. They should be able to take them as examples, get encouraged by their accomplishments and learn from their stories. How they managed to be an influential name in a sector dominated by men.
Physicist, Chemist, a pioneer in the radioactivity field
First woman to win a Nobel Prize, first person ever to get a second Nobel Prize
Regarded as the first computer programmer, long before the modern computers were invented.
- Katherine Johnson
Johnson’s calculations of orbital mechanics as a NASA employee were critical to sending the first Americans into space. She became famous when her story was profiled in the movie Hidden Figures.
- Rosalind Franklin
Franklin is known for her revolutionary work in discovering the double helix structure of DNA. She passed away four years before her male colleagues were awarded with the Nobel Prize in 1962.
- Vera Rubin
Discovered the existence of dark matter
There are many more women, pioneers in their fields, inventors of our lives, our futures, builders of the life we live today. Just lost in the pages of the long history book. Waiting to be read about.