Since ancient times women were involved in science; however, they were not allowed to participate in men’s work. However, women always showed their interest in science, and the first evidence of women-scientists originates from 4000 BC. It was a carving of a female physician in Sumer. Later, the researchers found written data about Merit Ptah and Zipporah, who were Egyptian physicians. The next progress appeared after 600 BC when the number of women-scientists increased and consisted of twenty women per century. Today, more and more women become engineers, scientists, and technologists. Although the situation is still unstable, and women feel unfairness and experience perfunctory attitude towards them, they came through many obstacles and difficulties to achieve progress and gender equality in science, engineering, and technology.
Women’s Participation In Science: Brief Overview
Women have played an important role in the development of science, engineering, and technology. However, in ancient and medieval times, most of the women had no access to education and could not express their opinions openly. Besides, they could not communicate with other women since there were no technologies and vehicles to gather with other women-scientists and share their thoughts. That is why women were always in a minority, and it was difficult to develop some ideas without assistance. Nevertheless, they strived for success and achieved good results. For instance, women were allowed to get education “in the Pythagorean Community, Plato’s Academy, and the Epicurean School”. Thus, the wife of Pythagorus continued his school after his death. Another example of women’s achievements was the law, which allowed the women to become physicians who treated other women in 300 BC. The reason for such changes was women’s dissatisfaction with their status in the society. They began to strike and achieved success eventually.
In the late 15th century, European women had only four options in their life: to marry, to enter into a convent, to work as a maid, and to become a prostitute. Men, on the contrary, had various possibilities and developed their skills in science. That is why those times cannot be notable for women-scientists. However, the period of Renaissance was the time of great intellectual changes in Europe. Women began to participate in science more often. However, at the same time, women-physicians lost their jobs and even were called “charlatans” or witches. The following rise of women’s participation in science was in the 18th century and continued to the 19th century when many women worked with their husbands, and they could get higher education together with men.
In the 1960-1970s, American feminists organized a movement that gave rise to the investigation of the number of women in science, engineering, and technology. After that, more and more women struggled for the scientific future, and today, the progress is tangible. Thus, modern girls are free to choose math and engineering as their major and develop their ideas and experiments. Due to the previous experience of their ancestors, contemporary women can get higher education, take up various scientific and engineering positions, and invent things equally with men.
Women In Science, Engineering And Technology
According to Hill, Corbett and Rose, only one-quarter or fewer positions in engineering and computer-related fields are held by women. Such situation is intolerable since women have different views on everything, and they can develop new technologies as well as men do. Besides, they can invent something for women only because most of the inventions were always constructed for men. For example, first automotive airbags were tailored to adult male bodies, which caused deaths of women and children. Therefore, the significance of women’s participation in science development is indisputable.
Interestingly, within the last two centuries, the rate of development of scientific and engineering knowledge and technical applications was unprecedented. In spite of this, women made progress in these areas in the last several decades. For example, the rate of women in scientific occupation was only 3% at the beginning of the 1960s, and in 2003, it increased by 20%. The same happened with the proportion of women, getting higher education in sciences. However, the fact that more women get their undergraduate and graduate degrees does not mean that they work as scientists, engineers and technologists later. On the contrary, the number of women working in these spheres is still small. It happens because of the myths about women and scientific disciplines.
The main myths about women are the following. First, women have no ability and drive to succeed in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). However, women show better results in studying mathematics, and their brain can perform the same operations in science as the men’s brain can. Another myth is that women are less productive and less competitive than men are. However, the similar number of women and men in educational establishments of science, as well as similar results in doing their job, refute this myth. Besides, men claim that women spend much time on childrearing; that is why they are a bad investment. It is obvious that women deliver and rear children in their young ages; however, men are more likely to take sick leaves in middle age than women. In addition, some men do not want to change the current situation since it is productive and does not need any developments. However, while depriving women of their right to participate in the development of science, the world is deprived of talented and skilled researchers and inventors. Thus, taking into account all these myths, one can conclude that a woman who wants to succeed in STEM must “look like a girl, act like a lady, think like a man, and work like a dog”. Still, women tend to the development and prove that they can be professional scientists and engineers.
The First Women Inventors In The USA
The first woman inventor in the USA was Sybilla Masters, Pennsylvania, who helped her husband to get two English patents in 1717. In 1809, Mary Kies invented weaving straw to make hats. She is considered as the first American patentee. In 1884, the first black-skinned woman, Judy Reed, received a patent for a mechanical dough kneader. This woman could not read and write, but she managed to invent such useful device. From 1790 to 1860 women registered only 77 patents, which means that only one woman in a year invented something new. However, in 1876, the number of patents registered by women was more than 1,000, and by the 1890s, it was doubled. Thus, women became more encouraged to participate in inventions and wanted to show their abilities.
Women are more likely to participate in STEM and invent something when they are inspired by other women. That is why it is important to encourage girls when they study at the university, telling them about women’s inventions. Among such women was Margaret Knight, who invented “a machine that manufactured “satchel-bottomed” paper bags”. Interestingly, many women-inventors tried to make their domestic chores easier; therefore, they invented or improved such devices as “cake-stirrer, dough maker, an invention for adjusting mirrors, and an improved cooking stove”. Besides, even the dishwashing machine was invented by a woman, Josephine Cochran, in 1886. Such situation is not surprising since women always try to do as much work as possible, and when there is a possibility to make it faster and better, women cannot refuse. Besides, men are less likely to invent some domestic devices since they use them rarely or never use them at all. Thus, women have to do everything themselves. Nevertheless, progress in technology and current globalization greatly affected women and gender roles in science and engineering.
The White House of President Obama provides stories of women-scientists on its website. According to the website, the founder of scientific computing, as well as the first computer programmer, is Ada Lovelace. Later, Grace Murray Hopper developed computer and programming language COBOL in the 1980s. Katherine Jonson is an African American space scientist who calculated trajectories for the first American in space, Alan Shepard. Interestingly, Sally Ride became the first woman who flew into space in 1983. Maria Klawe became the first women president of Harvey Mudd College and now, she tells the students about her success in computer sciences, teaching them that gender diversity is an essential part of STEM development. Lydia Villa-Komaroff discovered that bacteria could produce human insulin. Barbara McClintock discovered the “jumping genes,” which can change their position on the chromosomes. Besides, she was the only woman who did not share her Nobel Prize with anyone else.
Another well-known scientist was Marie Curie, who won two Nobel Prizes, one in physics, and one in chemistry, at the beginning of the 20th century. Consequently, her daughter together with her husband discovered artificial radioactivity and got a Nobel Prize as well. Later, their children continued the traditions of the family and worked as scientists with their spouses. Many other women achieved success in STEM or tried to discover something new; however, some of the names are forgotten, and the others are not known due to different factors. Nevertheless, it is difficult to deny that the women’s contribution to science, engineering, and technology is inestimable. Thus, it is necessary to encourage women to continue developing their skills and making their contributions to science. Without their help, everything would be different.
The Impact of Technological Changes and Globalization on Women and Gender Equality
People live in the world of modern technologies and integration. They can get access to education and information in any part of the world, as well as work and invent something at home. Globalization and technological changes help women to participate in the development of science. First, women can interact and communicate with other women, using the Internet and cell phones. Second, they can publish their scientific articles without fear of being censured by men. However, although women have more access to science and engineering development, globalization and technological progress affected men and women differently.
Due to the modern technologies, more and more women and men get access to local, domestic, and global information. Even those who live in underdeveloped countries have cell phones and Internet, which means that technological development resulted in economic growth for the whole world. Besides, trade openness and free access to information expanded economic opportunities for both genders. For instance, the demand for female workers in different spheres has increased. Thus, women get workplaces and become equal with men. However, some people argue that technological improvements affect genders differently.
For example, in rural areas of Indonesia, there is no differential access to electricity by gender. If the whole village gets electricity, not every household will be able to afford it. If women are disproportionately represented among the poorer households, they will not be able to use new inventions in comparison with wealthy households. However, only rural areas were examined; in high-developed countries, the situation is different.
Recent technologies allow women to spend more time doing something useful. For instance, kitchen devices help them to cook, wash dishes, and clean the kitchen quicker and more efficient. It saves their time, and they can study, play with their children, or invent something. Besides, they do not need to wash clothes by hands or change diapers every ten minutes. Moreover, men cannot reproach them for doing something too slow since the machines help them with their domestic chores. As a result, women can devote their time to studying, working or self-development. Of course, there are places where women have to extract water and make everything by hands; however, when speaking about the developed and developing countries, the positive outcomes are obvious.
Besides, in the third world countries, the impact of technologies is also noticeable. For example, in Japan, women used to work as coal miners till the 1960s when the mechanization of the process substituted their work. Consequently, fewer women suffered from different injuries and diseases, caused by their job. One may conclude that technologies have positive impact on women since they help them to make their lives easier and safer. However, in rural areas, women have no access to technologies, water, energy, and other options, which are used in the developed world. Therefore, it is important to encourage the development of technology and its distribution in the Third World countries.
Although the modern technologies affect women positively, a gender gap still exists. Most of the men control technologies, information and access to it both at home and work. Besides, women have lower income and often cannot afford to buy modern devices; thus, they cannot duly develop their skills and apply their knowledge. As a result, they cannot progress in science because of lack of access to new technology. Thus, everything is interconnected, and such barriers prevent women from further success. Nevertheless, in spite of such limitations, women still tend to self-development and growth in STEM fields.
Since ancient times, women tried to make their contributions to science and engineering. First, they became physicians, biologists, and mathematicians. Later, they began to invent computing and the computer programs, as well as various machines and devices. Thus, women invented or helped to improve such helpful tools as dough kneader or a dishwashing machine. Moreover, women contributed to space sciences, chemistry, physics, and other sciences. Today, more and more women participate in STEM development and educate other women how to achieve success in these spheres in the men-dominated world. Technological changes gave women more access to information and allowed them to take part in different scientific conferences and meetings. However, the situation in rural areas and underdeveloped countries almost has not changed, and women are still deprived of cell phones, computers, and modern kitchen utensils. As a result, some women get their chances to grow as scientists, and the others have no access to electricity.
In conclusion, although women began to participate in the development of STEM, their role is still minor. Thus, it is essential to encourage them to choose engineering and technology majors in the universities and do not be afraid of competing with men. Gender diversity in science will for sure bring benefits for the whole world.