Women are consistently under-represented in science, only making up around 30% of employees.
Not only are women somehow being deterred from pursuing science as a career, but women working within a scientific career do not appear to be rewarded like their male counterparts.
In scientific research, your notoriety comes from the level of funding your research is assigned ( which is loosely based around how often other researchers in the scientific industry have used your work to further their own ) and from awards that increase your profile, the most prestigious being the Nobel Prize.
For women in the industry, they appear to not being given these accolades, in fact 72% of research funding for science, technology, engineering and mathematics is awarded to men. Furthermore, only 2.9% of Nobel Prizes in history have been awarded to women.
Women in science are of course producing research to an excellent standard and are not being rewarded for their work, so could there be a problem of institutional sexism in science?
The most famous case that argues towards this idea is the work of Rosalind Franklin.
Related video: Women in STEM by Alice Gray: youtube.com/watch?v=Kp3lNokbqEc.
She was a British biophysicist in the 1940’s, working to discover the structure of DNA. She used an X-ray imaging technique to produce data that showed DNA’s two-stranded structure.
However, in the 1950’s when Crick and Watson “discovered” the structure of DNA and grained immense fame, they failed to mention Rosalind Franklin’s work, despite it being incredibly influential in their model of DNA. In 1962, Crick and Watson won the Nobel Prize, whereas Franklin died aged 37 with no such accolades for her important work.
But this treatment towards women in science is not only restricted to this event or time period.
In 1967, Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell ( an astrophysicist ) built a radio telescope, through which she discovered the pulsar. During her work, her thesis advisor insisted that the data she was detecting was an anomaly, she persisted and later proved the pulsar’s existence. Despite this, her thesis advisor ( Antony Hewish ) was awarded the Nobel Prize and she was over looked.
But do these instances really prove the presence of institutional sexism in science?
Dr Ben Barres has been particularly outspoken about the issues he has encountered during his career in science as a transgender male.
Before his gender correction procedures, he worked in the industry as physically female and noticed an immense difference in his treatment afterwards. In fact, during presentations of his data he overheard that “his work is much much better than his sister’s work”.
Some argue whether it matters if there are less women in science or less funding for the research of female scientists.
But the existence of inequality within science may not only have consequences for the women that work in it, but by directing funding away from their research it is possible that we could be preventing some crucial scientific break-throughs from happening.