What it’s like to be a woman in Science
Looking back on my education pre-university, I have always enjoyed studying science, even as a female. When I applied to university I had a difficult choice to make. Should I study a science such as Chemistry or choose a language based subject? In the end, I picked Linguistics, which is also described as “The Science of Language” and proves to be a great discipline that connects Biology with Language. I think many people forget that, strictly speaking, the definition of science is not restricted to Physics or Chemistry, but I believe that disciplines such as Psychology and Linguistics also fit the definition of a science-based subject. In the end, each of these disciplines tries to test hypotheses by controlling and manipulating certain variables in an experiment. As the procedures are documented, fellow researchers should be able to replicate the experiment at a later time and receive the same results. Linguistic and Psychological research make use of the same principles used in experiments of the natural sciences: Chemistry, Physics and Biology. I would therefore argue that Linguistics and Psychology should also be considered a science. On this basis, I think we should reconsider our perception of women in science. To illustrate this, based on my first-hand experience, the majority of students on my course are female and I would argue the same for psychology.
Contrasting my experience with Linguistics and Psychology, I have also been in the position of studying Chemistry and Biology in the past. It seems that the general census is that women are in the minority when it comes to science. I think I should count myself lucky that when I was in Sixth Form, I was not one of the female scientist what was primarily surrounded my males. In my Chemistry and Biology classes, I cannot speak for Physics because I did not take it, there was about a fifty-fifty split with a slight tendency towards female biologists. I also did not find that my fellow female classmates were disadvantaged in terms of getting good grades. One of the best students in my Biology class was a girl I studied with. As a woman, I should also note, that I managed to find myself in the top third in my Biology and Mathematics classes which some people may consider not to be the norm. This is why I am strongly arguing that it is possible for women to be successful in the field of science, despite the prejudice that women cannot be great scientists or get good grades if they decide to study science.
Image courtesy of Argonne National Laboratory, image hosted on Wikipedia.