The US government sees the only way towards economic prosperity is the full utilization of its people. As such it endeavors to provide equal opportunities to both men and women in all fields including science. The role of women in the growth of science industry in the US has always been an issue of concern.
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A study commissioned by the Committee on Maximizing the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering has revealed that women are equally capable as they are interested in science as their male counterparts. However the women involvement in the field of science has been riddled with several challenges throughput history.
Even though the US government prides itself in provision of equal opportunities, there are still glaring discrepancies in the resources and attitudes on how women and science are viewed. The increase in the number of women in position of leadership in the field of science has been commendable. However this increase has not been matched by an equal number of resources provided for these women scientist.
There are also legal as well as social hindrances that continue to belabor the place of women in science. These hindrances have had a negative impact on the gains made by the women scientist therefore slowing the pace of progress in fully utilizing the potential of women scientist. Thus the bias towards women scientists has negatively impacted the general growth of science as well as the US economy.
The history of women involvement in science
The involvement of American women in science dates back before the great American Revolution in the eighteenth century. Even though the involvement of women in science at this time was not officially recognized their contribution in such fields such as botany, zoology and such others has shaped modern scientific views.
Therefore the historical perspective of their involvement is not just a mater of the professional growth but is a matter the access to scientific opportunities and resources. Up to the eighteenth century, American women scientists were just seen as “observers and recorders” of scientific happenings.
As such their views were not included in professional scientific publication as they were not seen as fully fledged scientific discoveries. This type of bias was reinforced by new scientific discoveries that portrayed women as intellectually inferior to men. Furthermore the place of women in science continues to be hampered by the exclusion of women from higher institutions of learning. As such the involvement of women in the field of science up to the early twentieth century was largely practiced outside academia (Wayne 2).
The opening of land-grant colleges of education in the mid nineteenth century however was a great step towards overcoming the exclusion of women. These colleges opened up spaces and gave them a chance to be actively involved in science. Initially women just practiced as teachers and instructors in these colleges (4). The early twentieth century witnessed significant number of women who graduated with science based degrees in America.
The number of women graduate in this filed has continued to increased and has been fueled by some historical event such as the world wars, which saw the demand scientists rise due to involvement of men in wars. Provision of equal education opportunities for both men and women has seen the number of women science graduates rise significantly. However, women scientist still suffers socials biases as well as facing numerous obstacles which include limited access to resources (7).
Challenges face by women scientists
Patricia Rankin, a Physics at the University of Colorado explains that there are a number of social concerns facing the American women scientist (Choi 1). The biggest of this social issue the American woman scientist had to contend with is how to balance career and family.
This is because by the time a woman is achieving her science doctorate degree she has approached a time when she must conceive or the biological clock will by pass her. Furthermore, if she has to conceive at such a time her career is put on hold. As such many o employers in the scientific field have an unwritten bias against employing women scientist to avoid the career interruption btought about by maternity leaves (1).
Such challenges have been occasioned by a series of social norms held by the society for a long time. It is assumed that woman must get married and have children. However successful women scientist needs to fully engage their time doing sciences and as such would not have the appropriate time left for family.
If in case they are to have families, it leaves their husbands with much of the family responsibility and as Dr. Andrea Hodge laments this is contrary t0 societal expectations. Furthermore women scientist are not fully accepted in the societies they live in. their male colleagues find it hard to refer them with tiles such as Doctor or Professor. Such women have to work extremely hard so as to be seen as “one of the boys” (Byko 1).
The US federal law is largely silent on the plight to women scientists. However there have been some legal provisions to increase the awareness as will as participation of women in the field of science. The US federal law requires that no form of gender discrimination towards provisions and funding of educational opportunities.
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This was as a result of the 1972 federal law, named as “Title IX” that was passed to abolish discrimination of gender school in the distribution of federal aid. This federal law covered all areas of academia. These included the recruitment, enrolment, hiring as well as funding. As a result, the participation of the girl child in various academic fields increased tremendously.
The most significance increase was seen in sports such that there was an emergence of more girls’ sports teams from universities and colleges. Even though billions of dollar of grant have continued to be given out to institutions of higher learning for scientific projects, very little of these is funding finds its way to any projects being handled by women scientists. As such institutions are violating this law that requires equal gender treatment (Byko 1).
Opportunities for women scientist in America
Recent statistics indicate that the number of educational opportunities for women scientist have increased tremendously in the last decade. Very many women have been earning science based degrees in American Universities and colleges. Such opportunities have increased to such levels that women science graduates are almost equal to men. This education opportunities are in all levels of education from bachelors to PhD attainments.
However, the number of opportunities for women scientist in academia is not reflected at the work place. This means that although women are receiving equal education opportunities in science based courses, the same cannot be said of job opportunities.
There are glaring discrepancies and hindrances to professional opportunities for American women scientists. A number of roadblocks have been erected to derail the drive of the American women scientist towards equal job opportunities. One such significant obstacle is being made to choose family over career.
American women scientists are in constant dilemma when it comes to the issue of raising family. Science demands long hours of engagement and thus this do leave much time to dedicate to raising a family. Women scientists also have fewer promotion opportunities as well as professional appointments. This is coupled by poor salaries as compared to their male counterparts. Thus women scientist continues to have fewer employment opportunities (Byko 1).
Recommendation to improve American women scientist prospect in work environment
There are a number of considerations that American institutions as well as government can institute to protect women scientist. The recruitment process in the scientific industry has been largely through referrals as recommendations. As such, in an industry dominated by men who are subtlety but openly biased against women, many of the referrals are mostly for men.
As such women still find it hard to get these opportunities. As such the government as well as all stakeholders should develop recruitment criteria for recruitment that is merit oriented. This will ensure that women scientists are assured of fairly play during hiring and recruitment.
Institutions should also be flexible enough and allow women scientist who want to raise families some family time. This is through the provisions of long leaves, flexible work schedules and commensurate remuneration. When a graduate or postgraduate woman is on maternity leave, such time should not be included in her work tenure schedules. This will encourage more science graduates to beat the biological clock and conceive while still pursuing their career dreams.
Most importantly, the US government should tighten the law that requires that ether be no discrimination when it comes to awarding of educational grants. Just as the equal opportunities has have had an effect in the sporting disciplines in academic institutions, the government should enforce the law in other academic disciplines and ensure that women are equal beneficiaries of these grant as men.
It is still amazing that some of the challenges that women scientists faced in the eighteenth century still exist today. It would have been expected that some of the challenges would have been faced out with time. However, the women scientist in America still faces both social as well as legal hurdles. The society still insists that a woman has to give birth at a certain age. Thus women scientist always finds themselves with a tough call to make on whether to sacrifice their career or family.
Other than professional mistreatment from their male colleagues, women scientists face other challenges such as discrimination in the hiring process as well as few job promotion chances. The legal system which is supposed to ensure fair play in academia has been largely silent on the misappropriation of funds by donor agencies. Due to then important role that women lay in the overall growth America, the woman scientist needs better protection especial in this age where science is experiencing explosive growth.
Byko, Maureen. “Challenges and Opportunities for Women in Science and Engineering.” TMS Online. 2005. May 3, 2011 https://www.tms.org/pubs/journals/JOM/0504/byko/byko-0504.html.
Committee on Maximizing the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering (U.S.). Beyond bias and barriers: fulfilling the potential of women in academic science and engineering. Washington: National Academies press. 2007. Print
Choi, Charles. “Women scientists face problems.” The Scientist. 2004. May 3, 2011 https://www.the-scientist.com/
Wayne, Tiffany. American Women of Science since 1900. California: LLC. 2011. Print