By Anna Dunnion and Mórna Henehan, Expect Everything young correspondents from Ireland

There’s always been a common notion or idea that men naturally are more logical and best suited to study STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathetics) subjects. Although over  recent years the idea that women can’t be as skilled in these areas has declined, as more women choose chemistry, biology and are in higher level maths, some alarming statistics still remain.

Credit: University of California’s Center for Ethics in Science and Technology produced a series of videos about the hurdles women had to overcome in the scientific field

Recent sexism and stereotypes

In the UK around half the schools have no girls studying physics. Also to prove this bias in physics there was an experiment performed by physicist Amy Graves at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. Two male and female actors played the role of physics professors for a class. The actors delivered identical videotaped lectures . After watching the videos, the students were asked to rate the lecturer’s performances.

When it came to teaching, the male students preferred the male lecturers and the female students preferred the female lecturers. But the sexist stereotypes are obvious when it comes to ability in the subject itself. Male and female students thought the male lecturers were more knowledgeable in the subject and are better with equipment. Graves’s study has proven the bias that students think men are better at physics confirming their preconceived ideas about gender. 

Examples of women in the past whose discoveries weren’t credited

Jocelyn Bell Burnell, discovered pulsars in 1967 while studying in radio astronomy at Cambridge university. Her finding earned  her a Nobel Prize, but the 1974 awards in physics went to Anthony Hewish(  Burnell’s supervisor) and Martin Ryle.  Many sympathised with Burnell who came out with this blunt statement.

“The picture people had at the time of the way that science was done was that there was a senior man—and it was always a man—who had under him a whole load of minions, junior staff, who weren’t expected to think”

Rosalind Franklin, a biophysicist whose work in finding the structure of DNA was vital to the discoveries of Watson, Crick, and Wilkins who all got Nobel Prizes. She was never credited posthumously and may have been overlooked even if she had been alive at the time.

Over the centuries, female researchers have had to work as “volunteer” faculty members, seen credit taken from them for significant discoveries and  assigned to male colleagues, and been written out in textbooks.

From the statistics and tragic stories listed above we can conclude that bias against female scientists is less overt, but it has not gone away. Below we have listed information related to this topic.

Have a look at these resources

 

Jocelyn Bell Burnell’s TED Talk, Reflections about women in science

 

Hidden figures, A movie about women working in NASA

 

Sexism and Science by Evelyn Reed