Are Men More Intellectual and Skilled With Regard to Scientific Research than Women?
To argue that men are more intellectual and skilled than women is a claim that is outright misinformed and myopic as far as logical analysis and conclusions are concerned. This is an argument that may invoke gender perspectives as far as its evaluation and historical analysis of the roles and contributions of women in scientific research is concerned. Even where existing evidence seems most overwhelming, there is still a need for further analysis so that a reason for the existing disparity. Although scholars may hold varying opinion on this matter, only a few maintain that men are more intellectual and skilled with regard to scientific research than women. Although this issue has been addressed with a lot of bias, one may notice that even where there is dissenting opinion, there is need to scrutinize the underlying issue that prompt scholars to take such positions (Chang, 2012; Wente, 2012, 2013).
It may, therefore, appear that this assertion is seriously prejudiced especially that more and more women are venturing into scientific research and science careers as these barriers are continually being phased out (Wente, 2012). There is a need for one to conduct a literature review to mirror the real issues and the development of the matter. This is especially so given that many organizations, institutions and commissions have embarked on taking steps to identify the existing gaps and embrace corrective mechanisms.
Background Information on the Development of Gender Perspective in Research
Gender Mainstreaming in Europe
Back in the 1950s when Europe established the European Community, the concept of equity was still limited in definition. Later that year when the Beijing Olympics successfully campaigned for gender mainstreaming and gender parity recognition in social, economical, political and scientific spheres, the first step towards women empowerment was taken. It was a step that aimed at identifying the limiting factors with the aim of making the playing field plain. Therefore the launch of gender mainstreaming particularly by European nations after the World Conference on Women laid grounds for involvement in scientific research. Efforts have been made since then to bridge the gap which existed.
For the European commission, the approach was adopted by the year 1996. In fact, women empowerment was adopted as a policy, meaning that by law, governments were forced by that clause to ensure that they supported institutions that focused on women empowerment in scientific research (European Commission Report, 2009; Wente, 2012). This was particularly emphasized in those states where the disparity was alarming. One should note that by supporting women’s involvement in scientific research the policy just availed opportunity rather than tangibly making changes by incorporating women in actual scientific research (European Commission Report, 2009; Wente, 2013).
Probably other social and cultural factors that had been acting to impede women’s involvement in scientific research were not addressed by the European Commission resolution. This is not to imply that the resolution did not work to empower women in scientific research, but rather that where non-financial factors existed, no tangible effort was made. Overall, one may observe that the European Commission realized that there was a need to empower women in scientific research as specified in the equity clause.
It is important to note that it was the call for sustainable science that eventually contributed to the rise of involvement of women in scientific research and science in general. There are studies that argue that Western Sciences are perceived to be masculine in nature (e.g. European Commission Report, 2009). In fact, one mat notice that the existence of gender stereotypes in many western scientific discourse. Another area that is scientific oriented and also happens to be dominated by males is technology. This is because there has been a perception that some courses are male oriented while specific ones are the ones preserved for women (European Commission Report, 2009; Wente, 2012).
Researchers have made attempts to examine the perceptions that some societies have with regards to women involvement in scientific research. Some of those researchers point out to the fact that language and concepts have the ability to constitute and create gender bias (European Commission Report, 2009; Wente, 2012). They also postulate that sometimes it is indeed a deliberate effort to disregard the contributions of women in scientific research. The result of all these misconceptions and perceptions have prompted feminists to develop what observers have perceived to be a radical re-assessment of production of knowledge with particular attention given to gender and diversity (European Commission Report, 2009; v). For feminists, the gender disparity in scientific research is an issue that one should analyze in close association with diversity. This is because of the perception that gender disparity in scientific research is also closely knit with diversity.
Gender disparity in women, as far as scientific research is concerned, affects differently among different groups of women. They assert that there is no such a thing as global woman. They maintain that all other aspects such as sexual orientation, age and ethnicity are should be considered as vital diversity traits that affect involvement of women in scientific research. Many feminists, therefore, maintain that for clear understanding of factors that hinder or promote women involvement in scientific research, there is a need to examine the role of social, biological, economic factors and other differences between women in various areas. Economic factors become indispensable especially that policies that support women’s involvement in scientific research are sometimes interpreted within the economic position of a country. This is to imply that countries that have higher GDP are likely to support women to be involvement in scientific research at both individual level and institutional level (Yurkiewicz, 2012; Zielinski, 2006).
A report by European Commission (2009) indicates that while there have been a significant number of women involved in scientific research, there is still lack of data from which one may collect vital information. From the lack of a significant number of documented scientific researchers conducted by women makes it almost impossible to analyze women’s views on some matters that require to be analyzed from a gender perspective. Some of the areas where there is still a need to examine women’s contribution in scientific research include women involvement in innovation, women involvement in the development of science and technology (Yurkiewicz, 2012; Zielinski, 2006).
Another area where there is limited data to analyze gender involvement is the energy area. Many scholars maintain that save for the emerging bio-energy sector, the old energy sector that is purely anchored on physics used to have quite a limited number of women involved (European Commission Report, 2009). Efforts to address this disparity have encouraged an increased number of women involved in emerging research and scientific projects. Even so, the lack of data on women’s involvement in scientific research cannot be taken to imply that women are not competent enough to engage in notable scientific research (European Commission Report, 2009).
Although there was s good spirit of gender equity, another report by European Commission Report (2009) indicates that most states in Europe have independent models on how to finance research. It is reported that sometimes the methods employed do not take into account the need for equity. It is observed that women can really get to be disadvantaged. The study observes that this is especially so given that they are there are some family roles or sometimes stereotypes that tend to are crucial factors during decision making (European Commission Report, 2009). Citing an example of a country such as Estonia, the study maintained that there is what appears to be an obvious discrimination against women. The research observes that the decision making Science Competence Council in the Country happened to have a nine-member panel amongst whom there is no single woman. The report therefore, postulates that it is highly impossible for such as councils to make decisions that may be gender friendly. For instance, the council did not use to consider applications or parental leave until six years ago. Here women stay at home with children and as such cannot publish (European Commission Report, 2009).
However, women still have to compete for fund where these are available. Taking a case of Belgium, it has been observes that women are able to get research funds from universities (European Commission Report, 2009). They prefer to compete for funds at the university because men are more active in negotiating funds with industry. Although the research postulates that men are more active in negotiating funding with industries, making women prefer competing for university funds, there may be another side to this case (European Commission Report, 2009). There may be a possibility that the industries have gotten use to men negotiating for contracts such that the entry of women scientists is not given a fair consideration as far as allocation of funds for research is concerned. One should observe that for women to play their role in research there should be some sort of equal consideration in funding. This is very fundamental because failing to do so may perpetuate the school of thought that men are more intellectual than women. This is s wring assumption and should be dispelled.
Another reason that has propagated the perception that men are more intellectual and skilled with regard to scientific research than women is borne out of the fact that nearly all the informal selection procedures that institutions adopt tend to disfavor women. Other studies suggest that give that many offices are male dominated and when the chances for promotion come, many men would see an academic woman first as a woman and second and then as a colleague (European Commission Report, 2009). Under such prism, it is usually not so easy for women to get to be recognized and sometimes end up being disadvantaged especially if their line was academic or research oriented.
In some cases, promotion would imply admission into research teams considered advanced thus access to research resources. When a woman’s chances for promotion to a position that would have enhanced her research has been victimized as such, it would not be fair to say that men are more intellectual and skilled with regard to scientific research than women. Similar results have been found also by the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology. Other scholars observe that although networking is very vital in research, it has remained an area that is still male dominant. It is being observed that the existing stereotypes and negative practices render it particularly challenging for women to be admitted into what has been considered influential lobbies.
A highlight by Meg Urry entitled “Why bias holds women back” reveal that although women have tried to make progress in the field of science and technology, there is still a need for more effort. Such efforts should be geared towards not only encouraging more and more women to engage in scientific research, but also to sensitize men to be fair when dealing evaluating women candidates (Urry, 2012). Urry say that she became the chairperson of the department of physics in Yale University, back in the year 2001, as the first female faculty member. She observes that although women are employed in the United States in great numbers that reach up to half the population of people employed, the disparity is so clear in some sectors. She highlights that women make less than 12% of the total workforce amongst physicist and engineers (Urry, 2012).
One may wonder why such a big disparity exists. Well, evidence point out to suggestions that when in many cases, scientists at some of the top universities tend to rate their male counterparts above females with basically similar qualifications and experience. To them, women are neither capable nor worth hiring. In fact, they also go an extra mile in enumeration and award male scientist significantly higher than female scientist. Indeed with such blatant attempts to thrash efforts made by women, only a lunatic may buy the idea that men are more intellectual and skilled with regard to scientific research than women.
Research carried out by Moss-Racusin and others (2012) suggests that there would be a shortage of up to a million workers in the US in the next decade. Moss-Racusin et al. suggest that there is a need to train and recruit women. The study indicates that this was a proposal from the 2012 report from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (Moss-Racusin et al., 2012). The same report revealed that there is a disparity especially where the number of women receiving their PhDs and those who are hired to serve as junior faculty. The study highlights that the problem will not just solve itself mere by allowing more and more women to pass through the academic pipeline (Moss-Racusin et al., 2012). The study was designed to investigate subtle gender bias on the part of the faculty with more focus on the physical and biological sciences. It may be surprising but the results found out that both the female and male members of the physical science faculty and biological science faculty judged female undergraduate students on the same scale. Both male and female faculty judged a female student as less competent and less worthy of being hired than their counterpart males (Moss-Racusin et al., 2012). The research also proposed that if women’s decision to leave science fields when or before they reach the faculty level results from experiences that reflect unfair treatment, then making efforts to improve their identification with science subjects will not yield desired outcomes. This is because other attitudes and notions will still be unpreventable especially faculty members’ bias. As long as the faculty is still not yet educated on the dangers of expressed, implied or demonstrated bias, there would still be a problem in addressing concerns about women’s involvement in scientific research (Moss-Racusin et al., 2012).
There are various studies that indicate that women’s organizations make use of ICT for the advocacy of communication and information. ICT has been used by activist communities to extend the relations among the members. Through internet, such organizations are able to make crucial decisions on matters affecting the members. Many of the organizations dealing with women issues reported an improvement in the number of women they could reach through internet. A project such as the Afrobrazilian women’s group was initiated to offer the marginalized people such as women the power to interact with technology (Friedman, 2003). For many years, women were considered to be domestic experts where the technology field was dominated by men. The use of ICT has made many women to gain the skills and knowledge required for scientific research.
According to Webster (1995) there was an assumption that the impact of technology in Britain and America would the same for women and men. A study was conducted to find out the relationship between gender and technology and how technology affected the women’s performance at work. It is important to note that the perspectives on technology and gender relations have undergone have continually been changing. Studies conducted in a tobacco factory and in a car assembly plant revealed that there was a gendered division of labor based on the assumption that women lacked enough skills in handling technology. The men working in these industries were involved in mechanized and technological tasks while women performed the non-mechanized and labor-intensive tasks. All the work performed by women was defined as less skilled than men’s work. These studies aimed to highlight the exclusion of women from technologies and the skills required for the administration of mechanized tasks. The labor-intensive work that women were subjected to was more insecure than the capital intensive work performed by men. This was mainly because of the short-term changes in demand and the pressures for automation.
Researchers first examined the impact of IT on women’s work by using an office setup where many women worked as secretaries. In one of the research, it was found out that, IT had little impact on the division of labor based on gender (Webster, 1995). Men continued to be perceived as better equipped to handle advanced technologies such as computers. This made women to continue being in lower paying jobs that were more manual. It was also revealed in this study that organizations opted to use women as a cheaper and reliable option than machinery.
A study on clerical home-working in Britain showed that most homeworkers were women. The women who were homeworkers were poorly paid and isolated. Intense labor processes and low pay characterized the women’s jobs that also included clerical occupations (Webster, 1995). Men were mainly working in professional occupations such as computer programming and management. Most men were also self-employed and earned more than women even when they worked from home.
The introduction of computers had minimum impacts on labor distribution. Men continued to demonstrate to women that they were better placed to handle technology. The access of men to technology has been as main source of their power over women. This also contributes to the higher incomes and the professionalism of their tasks. Men and women, therefore, have different relationships on technical skills and use of IT.
According to Kurian & Munshi (2003) the success was rare for the IT initiatives managed by men even when such initiatives were established to help women. This was evident in Southern India where some women were in charge of a village computer centre. Although the village centre was operated by women, the main decisions of the type of data to download came from an urban-based administrative structure that was dominated by men. This killed the efforts of rural women’s empowerment in IT due to male dominance in managerial aspect of IT.
IT and internet use in the society has been brought positive impacts to the society. Many people have experienced the benefits of internet as it has enhanced communications among people from different communities. The ICT and Media advocacy projects in Brazil were established to empower women who were marginalized in this region. The importance of internet was particularly noted during the 2001-2002 economic crises in Argentina (Friedman, 2003). Despite the challenges, people continued interacting and communicating through internet. ICT has become an important tool for the advocacy for gender equality in Latin America and many other regions. ICT in Latin America is not seen as a preserve for men but as an indispensable utility that should benefit all people equally regardless of their gender affiliations. The benefits of IT in scientific research should also be realized by all scientists whether they are male or female.
Culture plays a critical role on the use of IT in some communities in the world. This is particularly true of the women in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region who are not supposed to be heard in public. Although these women can voice their opinions through internet, the cultural interpretations still continue enhancing the traditional barriers between their private life and public life. Women in the MENA region use internet for online communication but cultural factors hinder their mobility as they are considered better at home where they executive their responsibilities as house wives. Culture has affected the use of IT for the MENA women where in only men are allowed free access to internet in some regions. In addition, men control the access to the skills of using technology and hence giving women limited access to technology (Newsom & Lengel, 2003). The digital gender divide is widened because women can only be allowed to air their grievances through the internet but quickly assume their traditional roles while offline. Although men in the Middle East region enjoy political and social empowerment, women are seeking personal empowerment by expressing themselves through weblogs. Sites have been established where women can share their problems such as violence against women and advocating for women’s rights in the society. Many MENA governments monitor the use of internet through authoritarian systems that bar internet users from posting any criticism against their governments. In extreme cases users who are suspected of critical speech through the internet may be subjected to torture, imprisonment, or murder.
Proposed Remedies to Gender Parity in Scientific Research
In order to promote and improve gender participation in scientific research, and to disqualify claims that men are more intellectual and skilled with regard to scientific research than women, the following need to be done. To begin with, the society should attach gender requirement to all funding programs. Relevant bodies should set terms for organizations that that support research funding that their funding should reflect gender equality. There should also be gender balance in research teams before they are approved for a go ahead. This should be adopted as s standard so that the existing gap narrows down. Besides, it is also highly recommended to brief the panes charged with evaluation on the existing bias in the assessment and selection process. This may help in change of attitudes and overall improvement in gender participation in scientific research (Wente, 2012).
Creation of well funded program that is dedicated to promote the much need changes in many of the research institutions has also been proposed as s remedy measure. In fact, there should be more funding for institutions that make efforts to implement programs for recommended structural change. It may also be necessary to fund more specific research on women and gender. In non-research areas, various committees, expert groups, and high ranking positions should be gender balanced to create a picture of what the society should strive to be.
Most importantly, the education system should provide access to female role models so that others who are yet to make it may be motivated. Other practices and biases that insinuate male dominance should also be eliminated. The most common one is the gender pay gap in some countries and institutions. It is also vital for instructor to provide encouragement not only to female students, but also to male students. Encouraging them on the same platform not only eliminates bias but also affirms the message that all of them can make equal achievements. This also helps them venture in daring fields and still achieve (Wente, 2013; Biochemistry.org, 2012).
According to Huyer & Sikoska (2003) women participation in scientific research can be improved by empowering women on the use of IT. Women should also be encouraged to be involved in decision making process just like their male colleagues. Although women are capable of having technical skills to use computers, they ought to be more aggressive in order to play similar role as men in scientific research.
The current criticism of male’s dominance in IT should not be taken as a total rejection of technology. It however brings out the need of having better relationship between the IT experts and the women beneficiaries of IT initiatives especially in rural areas. The development agencies should stop having the mentality that establishing village IT centres that target women in developing and underdeveloped countries, will end the male dominance in IT. The same centers that are supposed to benefit women are managed by male bureaucrats who continue pressing for male agenda (Kurian & Munshi, 2003). Feminist visions should be considered when creating and using new technologies if technology is to be mobilized as a force for social justice even in scientific research. Women’s desires and needs in IT should be recognized as a central empowerment strategy in developing nations. IT should be embraced as an empowerment tool for both men and women whose creativity shapes the future of IT and scientific research. If women are given similar exposure to IT like men, it will be realized they can equally be effective in the field of scientific research.
It is important to assert that men are not more intellectual and skilled with regards to scientific research than women. However, men have been unduly advantaged over women in the past leading to this common belief. Various reports and researchers have allayed this misconception. The fact that male counterparts view women, in the scientific research field, as inferior may not end immediately though the society must take steps to eliminate this. As a result of the above identified stereotypes, one may notice that some men could not welcome women in their discussion groups citing inferior capability (Yurkiewicz, 2012).
In one way or another at every scientific research level, evidence has shown that women tend not to be judged by the standard of their input (Pytell and Lang, 2009). This is usually revealed in the form low salary enumerations, failure to get appointed to leadership positions and general lack of promotions for women compared to their male counterparts. By and large, gender bias portrays women as less intellectual and skilled (Zielinski, 2006). This fallacy can be overcome through ensuring equal treatment of both men and women in scientific research.
List of References
Biochemistry.org (2012).Gender Equality in Science Grants. Retrieved from http://www.biochemistry.org/SciencePolicy/Womeninscience/GenderEqualityinScienceG rants.aspx
Chang, K. (2012). Bias Persists for Women of Science, a Study Finds. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/25/science/bias-persists-against-women-of-science-a- study says.html
Connel, R. (2009). Gender: In World Perspective. Cambridge: Polity.
European Commission Report (2009). Women in science and technology: Creating sustainable careers. Retrieved from http://ec.europa.eu/research/science- society/document_library/pdf_06/wist2_sustainable-careers-report_en.pdf
Friedman, E. (2003). ICT and Gender Equality Advocacy in Latin America: Impacts of a New Utility. Feminist Media Studies, Vol. 3 (3), 383.
Huyer, S. & Sikoska, T. (2003). Overcoming the Gender Digital Divide: Understanding ICTs and their Potential for the Empowerment of women. New York: Routledge.
Kurian & Munshi. (2003). Gender and the Information Society. Feminist Media Studies, Vol. 3 (3), 205.
Mikulak, A. (2012). Gender Equality Influences How People Choose Their Partners. Retrieved from http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/gender-equality- influences-how-people-choose-their-partners.html
Moss-Racusin et al. (2012).Science faculty’s subtle gender biases favor male students. Proceedings for the National Academy of Science of the United States of America. Retrieved from: http://www.pnas.org/content/109/41/16474
Newsom, V., & Lengel, L. (2003). Contained Empowerment in the Middle East in the Middle East North Africa Region. Feminist Media Studies, Vol. 3 (3), 360-363.
Urry, M. (2012).Why bias holds women back. Retrieved from: http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/01/opinion/urry-women-science/index.html
Webster, J. (1995). What Do We Know About Gender and Information Technology at Work? : A Discussion of Selected Feminist Research. European Journal of Women’s Studies, Vol. 2 (315).
Wente, M. (2012). “Gender parity trumps excellence in science?” The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/gender-parity-trumps- excellence-in-science/article5610999/
Wente, M. (2013). “Women in combat: Let’s get real.” The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/women-in-combat-lets-get- real/article7879189/
Yurkiewicz, I. (2012). “Study shows gender bias in science is real. Here’s why it matters.” Scientific American. Retrieved from: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/unofficial- prognosis/2012/09/23/study-shows-gender-bias-in-science-is-real-heres-why-it-matters/
Zielinski, S. (2006). Barriers and Bias Hold Back Women in Academic Science. Eos Transactions American Geophysical Union, 87(39), 404.
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