Sexism in Science
After reading about the anti-feminist attitudes that existed in the laboratories described in The Double Helix, I became interested in the condition of women in the modern science world. Through the Association for Women in Science, I discovered that there have been initiatives to apply Title IX towards science and engineering education.
In 2009, President Obama wrote a letter to women advocacy groups claiming that he believed applying Title IX towards women in science and engineering could expand women’s opportunities and participation. However, there is concern that increased opportunities will result in cuts from men.
When the idea grew in popularity around 2002, women were earning around sixty percent of bachelor’s degrees in humanities, social sciences, life sciences and education, but men had high majorities in other fields such as physics, computer science, and education. Some suggested the discrepancy was due to biological differences between men and women, while others asserted that science education was not as open to females.
As a Chemistry major at Vanderbilt, I personally haven’t experienced any discrimination or difficulty entering science education. I’ve felt as though both students and professors in my classes have been fairly mixed between genders. Sure, the numbers aren’t exactly equal, but I wouldn’t say rampant inequality exists.
I’m not sure how much of an impact Title IX would have towards science education. Focusing on numbers and statistics of women involved in sciences seems dangerous to me. The real issue is the attitude towards women. If men became hostile towards the idea of Title IX, it could potentially create problems rather than solve them.
The general sentiment towards women scientists has clearly changed since the time of the pursuit of the structure of DNA. Many women have won Nobel prizes in science since the time of Rosalind Franklin. Changes in society at large due to the Feminist movement have been reflected in the laboratories, once again demonstrating the interdependence of the many different facets of the world.