Women have had a hard time historically of getting into any demographic as equals. It seems that in the 21st Century, humans still struggle with the notion that women should be in science. This is why Professor Ludmilla Jordanova launched her Women in Science Research Network on July 24, 2013 at the ICHSTM Conference.
This group kicked off at the Manchester Museum. The professor came to introduce the network and to deliver the keynote message. Many historians and archivists joined the group during this time. The goal is to recover as much about women in science throughout history as possible.
It was in the Fossil Gallery at the museum that the professor delivered her message. It was an inspirational plea to help people to understand the objectives of her new group. Her passion for the organization she has created shined through.
She began by explaining her interest in both gender and women in science. She clearly stated that there is a debate raging in the history of science. It is among the historians and can be primarily solved by historical research. She expressed her clear view that women are under-represented in the history of science. She sees this not because they didn’t participate, but because their contributions have not been recognized by historians.
She went on to state that they are specifically focussing on the last two decades of science in their research. Perhaps this is because women did participate more keenly in these time periods. However, women did not have the right to vote at the time. Their contributions would most likely be underground. They did not work outside of the home until later in the 20th Century.
It’s hard to imagine that the world just one hundred years ago was in such a state. People who work in professions now of course would never admit that there is a gender barrier. However, if you talk to people that are still alive but in their late 80s, you might find a different attitude. These are the people that still have the antiquated notions that men are better in some, or even all, positions than women. That women belong in the kitchen cooking and not out in the job force.
While we hope these notions completely die out, the work of this group is definitely needed. They will uncover women that contributed. They will document how and what these women did. There will be more stories of the incredible work that women did in their fields.
The professor also noted how gender has become more entrenched in our time period. That toys and clothes are geared now more than ever to a certain gender. In an age of gender-less fluidity and transgender, this is indeed an interesting observation.
The group also hopes to inform policymaking. They hope that the policymakers will work in tangent with the historians to ensure that all ideological positions are represented. She noted as an example the History and Policy website run out of King’s College, London.
She also noted in her speech that people view equal access to education in science as enough now. They think that people will naturally rise to the positions they are meant to be in. She does not believe women have the same access as men. She looks at it as a pyramid where women are excluded from the top opportunities that men possess.
She mentions that even the Royal Society has fallen prey to just assuming that women all of the sudden had access to science. She says that they overlook how they may have contributed in ways in the past that were never represented in the history books, even those of the Royal Society.
The talk concludes as she says that it takes a certain special creativity and intelligence to be in science. And that women have been historically interested in nature just as much as men. The need to ungender science from stereotypes is important. Women and men have both participated in history. However, women need their heroines to be inspired. This is why the work of the movement is crucial.
This lecture in its full dialogue is available online and might be of particular interest to people looking to join in the initiative.