The Role of Women in Science

International Women’s Day is once again upon us and what better way to celebrate it than looking back at influential women in science?

On the 11th of February, the scientific world celebrated its females through The International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Are these two days necessary in today’s modern world, in which supposedly feminism is obsolete and we have reached perfect gender equality?

Let’s shed some light on the role of women in science and you can come up with your own conclusions.

Statistics show that the number of women in research is drastically low compared to male researchers. According to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics, the average percentage of women employed in research and experimental development is merely 29.3% globally. Nationally, this percentage is even less. With 28.7%, Malta is in Europe’s bottom five countries.

Are we making any progress?

Studies show that it will take another 16 years for women and men to publish the same amount of papers globally. This is an average taken over all the different fields in science.

Granted, there are a handful of fields, including nursing and midwifery, in which the papers published by women outnumber those published by men. However, in 87 out of 115 fields in this particular study, women are still lagging behind. A particular field, physics, might be the worst out of all, with another 258 years needed for the gap to close off completely.

Are women good enough to be scientists?

Women have shown through and through that they are just as capable as men to be a great scientist. A pioneering figure to further strengthen this statement is Marie Curie – one of the only two people to win a Nobel Prize in two different fields.

It is society’s stereotypes that serve as a major obstacle for women pursuing careers in science, not to mention the workplace environment.

“Suppose you came across a woman lying on the street with an elephant sitting on her chest. You notice she is short of breath. Shortness of breath can be a symptom of heart problems. In her case, the much more likely cause is the elephant on her chest. For a long time, society put obstacles in the way of women who wanted to enter the sciences. That is the elephant.”Sally Ride, first American women in space

The effect of science on society

Science affects everyone. However, what science decides to solve and design depends a lot on who is doing the scientific inquiry.

Countless women with heart disease have been misdiagnosed in hospitals because symptoms in females can be different than those in males. The research that had been done in that time was purely based on males, most probably because the majority of the scientists involved in this field were male. No one expected the symptoms to vary from one sex to the other.

And if this did not prove to you that women are vital in science, here is another reason. Historically, we have proof that when women are involved in fields of study which were previously dominated by men, the general knowledge in that field tends to expand. Science is no exception. Women look at problems from a different angle than men thus enriching the creativity of the team in which women are a part of.

As a young women in science, here is my two cents…

For this problem to be solved a shift in mentality needs to occur and everyone needs to pull at the same rope. In order to change society’s behaviour, we need to change our own.

Men, don’t undermine women, see their potentiality as scientists. Make them feel comfortable in the workplace, especially if they form part of the minority.

Women, don’t doubt your intelligence because of your gender, you are as capable as anyone else. Support your female colleague, women empowering women is essential. Don’t fall into society’s trap and let them make you believe that she is your enemy. Stereotypes need to change. We need to become role models for all the aspiring female scientists.

This is why S-Cubed was very happy to collaborate with the Faculty of Science in organising an event for Junior College students in which many female scientists spoke about their experience and encouraged girls to join the field.



The views expressed in this article are those of the author and are not reflective of ‘A Bird’s Eye View’ as a whole.


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