Reviewing Roles Women Play


Women have a special role in science and its application because of their closeness to the family and children. They also play an integral role in pursuing policies pertinent to sustainable development as well as improvement of the quality of life. Similarly, women ought to be involved in the integration of science and technology, policy making for research and basic technological endeavor. The paper studies the role that women play in science and technology, how technology has affected the role of women, and challenges women face in their participation in science and technology. In enforcing the role of women in science, the paper also touches on some of the iconic women that have been in the forefront of technology, as well as what the future holds for women involved in science.


Role of Women in the Development of Science and Technology

During the past decades, there has been an influx of women pursuing science-related careers. Similarly, women have continued to make significant contributions to science and come up with significant accomplishments. The percentage of women partaking in chemistry-related courses has increased from 7% to 27%, while those pursuing geosciences increased from 3% to 22% (Cater-Steel & Cater, 2010). The percentage increase has taken place between the years 2008-2014. Additionally, the representation of female biologists increased from 16% to 40% within the same time period. Science and technology play a profound role in the modern life, society, and the overall economic status (Wyer, Barbercheck, Cookmeyer, Ozturk, & Wayne, 2013). Moreover, whenever women are given the authority to participate in technological innovations, the resultant benefits are vast. 

In fact, the most recent figures from the National Science Foundation show that the percentage of women undertaking engineering and computer science is 23% and 25%, respectively (Wyer et al., 2013). One of the factors that have given women the impetus to pursue science-related courses is the encouragement and inspiration they receive from women who have advanced in similar fields. The involvement of women in science and technology increases their contribution towards the society through their influence on the Research and Development (R&D) and Science and Technology (S&T) (Cater-Steel & Cater, 2010). However, before the twentieth century, there was a tendency of presenting female scientists as supporters of their male counterparts and not the pioneers.

Women also play an essential role in changing global intolerance into developmental opportunities. In this respect, their creativity becomes an amalgam of knowledge and cultural values that will enable them to attain a desired level of wisdom essential for economic development. Therefore, women utilize their humanistic understanding as well as careful judgment. Even with the utilization of humanistic understanding, there are relatively few women who are partaking careers in science. At the same time, science and technology offer improvements and possibilities that can be useful in the improvement of women’s situations (Wang & Hartsell, 2013).

In the facet of science and technology, women also have an impact of playing supporting roles that revolve around research assistants, technicians, or even senior research assistants. Nevertheless, the roles women play in science are not highlighted compared to the scientific roles played by their male counterparts (Cater-Steel & Cater, 2010). In an ideal situation, men and women ought to bring forth equal contributions but it seems individuals have differing perspectives on the issue. In addition, women play a role of ensuring that the utilization of science and technology is applicable in productive mannerisms that will be beneficial for everybody. In essence, they instill a protocol that dictates how science and technology ought to be institutionalized. This is actually practical because it is apparent that women exhibit ethical practices compared to men. In this respect, involvement of women is science and technology gives an impression that women influence the application of science for constructive purposes as opposed to destructive purposes (Rodin & Collins, 2013).

The role and involvement of women in science should not be a factor of physique or body functionality. This is because the advent of technology has brought forth some advances and machines that work without human participation. Nevertheless, some women, such as ‘Rosie the Riveter’, were working at factories and pursuing jobs that were designated for men. This was taking place in the course of the World War II (Rodin & Collins, 2013).  Such contributions were important in empowering women to share any duties because it rules out their underrepresentation on the basis of their functionality. Even though the contribution of women in the realm of computer science has not been well documented, they have played a vital role in the development of computer science.

Women have been in the forefront of ensuring that there are comprehensible computer programs and languages. In addition, they have also made an effort of putting up the ground work designated for women’s participation in science. Grace Murray Hopper and Augusta Ada Byron Lovelace are examples of two personalities whose contributions in science and technology cannot be looked down upon (Cater-Steel & Cater, 2010). Grace Murray Hopper was the first programmer, who foresaw the importance of programming. The role women were playing in computer science as a facet of science and technology was blossoming in the course of the Second World War when their male counterparts were busy taking part in the on-going war (Wyer et al., 2013). In fact, a vast majority of the then programmers were women and they were being referred to as calculators. 

The involvement of women in the development of science, engineering, and technology gives an impression that women will release the same degree of health care as men. In this respect, it has been apparent that women have been receiving the short end of the stick when it comes to health because doses recommended to them were meant for the average-size man. An example is the sleeping pills, where women were urged to reduce their consumption because their active ingredient was more effective in women’s bodies as compared to men. This was according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (Cater-Steel & Cater, 2010). Hormonal fluctuations in both males and females are different thus influencing the differences in drug administration. In this respect, women’s involvement has been important as participants in clinical research as opposed to the research contributors (Wyer et al., 2013). All in all, their involvement has been of paramount importance in the development of science, engineering, and technology.

The number of women in the field of science and technology has been increasing for the last couple of decades. In the fall of the year 1970, for example, the number of women in the workforce was about 7% and increased to 23% in the year 1990 (Rodin & Collins, 2013). By 2011, women’s participation in the workforce had increased to 26% and the figure is still going up. This can be seen in the figure below.  

How Technological Change Affects the Roles of Women and Ideas of Gender

Technological change affects the roles of women in the sense that through the advent of technology, there has been an increase in gender-based discrimination. Similarly, there is increasing under-representation of women in the notable scientific profession such as engineering. In addition, technological change does not bring forth an assertion that technology is gender-neutral because it is more inclined to masculinity. In this case, technology seems to be controlled by men and thus serves the men’s interests as opposed to women. 

The impact of technology may also bring about an increased economic growth, which produces redistributive effects that do not affect genders equally. However, the redistributive effects have a shelf life because in the recent past, the old stereotypes are being shattered by the contemporary business environment. In this respect, there is compatibility between women and technology as more women are becoming part of the recent technology (Wyer et al., 2013). In the corporate realm, more organizations seek technology savvy women in the quest for maintaining gender equality in the organizational setting. 

Therefore, the advent of technology has to some extent brought about equality where women’s efforts are being acknowledged. The acknowledgement is inclusive of high female participation in technological innovations, which gives them a reliable source of income to take care of themselves and their families. From the domestic perspective, the advent of technology has had an impact on the role of women and ideas of gender by changing lives of women and their domestic roles. For instance, technology has brought about technological tools within the households that save time and increase efficiency of domestic operations. Such tools comprise of washing machines, pressure cookers, juice blenders, and air conditioners just to mention a few.  

In respect to the idea of gender, technology has had an impact of inculcating a perception that gender inequality does not have a place in the contemporary way of life (Rodin & Collins, 2013). Women are pursuing what men have been able to pursue thus ruling out the subsisting inequality differences. The idea that only the male gender can dominate the technological domains has, therefore, become a thing of the past.

Iconic Women in the Forefront of Science and Technology

Women have become heroes in the fields of science, technology, and engineering. Grace Murray Hopper, for example, explored technology and became a developer of computer programming language (Foust-Cummings, Sabattini, & Carter, 2008). In fact, her greatest achievement was the establishment of a computing language that was written in English as opposed to mathematical notations. Her creative works have been useful up-to-date and have been a major contribution in the field of computing. Katherine Johnson is another female, whose know-how and scientific expertise has enabled her to be an exemplary scientist. 

She has also made a quantifiable contribution towards aeronautic and space programs through the calculation of key trajectories in space. Rachel Carson was a successful environmentalist and marine biologist. She has raised environmental concerns through her book ‘The Silent Spring’ (Foust-Cummings, Sabattini, & Carter, 2008). Ada Lovelace is another phenomenal woman in the field of technology, who was the founder of scientific computing. Sally Ride became the first woman to fly in space on June 18th, in year 1983, even though later she decided to retire from space (Mitter & Rowbotham, 2003). Another iconic woman that was in the forefront of technology was Rosalind Franklin who became the first woman to elucidate the structure of the DNA.  She was a British chemist and her field of expertise was crystallography. 

Women who are being involved in research roles pertinent to engineering and science have been showing a decline in participation compared to the male counterparts. In the European Union, for instance, only 29% of women are researchers, while men take up the remaining of percentages (Foust-Cummings, Sabattini, & Carter, 2008). However, the number of women graduating in sciences with PhD level has also been showing an upward trend. Between the years 2009 and 2014, for instance, the number of women graduates increased by 7.3%, while the percentage of males increased by 3.8% (Mitter & Rowbotham, 2003). Therefore, from a general perspective, women in developing countries are making a slow but steady progress in the contribution to the science and technology. 

Challenges Women Encounter in the Development of Science and Technology 

The role of women in scientific discoveries and inventions is confined to either their level of education or the drive they derive from their families. Similarly, discoveries of male scientists are always highlighted while the contributing women are sidelined. An apt example is Antoine Lavoisier, who was working in close liaison with his wife, who was not acknowledged despite her contributions. This gets to show that even though women have been playing a significant role in the development of science and technology, they encounter inherent drawbacks. For instance, it is apparent that women are the major conduits in transferring knowledge across generations (Foust-Cummings, Sabattini, & Carter, 2008). However, they possess scientific skills that are not up to par compared to their male counterparts.  

An apt example is taking into account women that partake technical training in universities. Women who study biological sciences constitute only 13%, while those pursuing chemistry are 11%. Only 10% pursue advanced medicine studies (Foust-Cummings, Sabattini, & Carter, 2008). These figures give a better illustration of women’s under-representation even in the fields that revolve around life sciences. Another inherent challenge is lack of self-confidence. Women have a tendency of underestimating their capabilities, while their male counterparts overestimate theirs. Women who have always wished to be successful in the male dominated fields tend to think that they ought to be more than average intellectually. Similarly, female scientists have less confidence than male scientists thus assuming their personal responsibilities.

Despite significant improvements and inventions that women have made in the last few years, their contribution in the field of technology is still being downplayed. This is attributable to the roles and perceptions that are accorded by the contemporary society. Similarly, the existence of mass media also plays an integral role in inculcating stereotypical images of women that occupy certain scientific inclined professions. Most commercials that involve science and technology feature male figures and make it unusual for women to venture in such. In addition, science is normally rejected as a career choice due to limited information available to the public domain. Therefore, most women end up pursuing careers that are conventionally acceptable, such as hospitality and hair dressing among others because they lack the necessary support.

Motherhood is another drawback that acts as an impediment towards women’s progression in the realm of science and technology. This is more likely to happen whenever women are required to play their motherly duties, such as bringing forth life and nurturing their children. They are thus compelled to go through maternity leave, which is a transition, under which their careers temporarily remain stagnant. Females leaders who have been or are pioneering in the science and technology should mentor the younger workforce and ensure they follow a similar workforce. In addition, the younger workforce will also need to have people who can inspire them as well as female figures they can look forward to (Cater-Steel & Cater, 2010). In fact, science and technology would only achieve its optimal societal impact whenever women are involved in their conceptualization. 

Women should be incorporated in technology as an active part of producers who will establish correlation between technology and consumer preference. Even after all has been said and done, women scientists will always be confronted with the inherent challenge of balancing between job and their families. Therefore, most women are being compelled to choose jobs that will be compatible with the needs of their families. 

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The Future of Women in Science

Even though the globe is undergoing a scientific and technological transformation that incorporates the contribution of women, it builds a polarized world through social inequalities, which undermine women. In order to increase the level of innovation, there ought to be creative female input. However, there is always a loss of opportunity whenever a woman digresses from science to pursue a socially acceptable career. This raises a need to support women who embrace technology, especially in the grass root fields. In addition, there ought to be the way of encouraging young girls who show inclination towards science-related fields. Marie Curie has been in the forefront in encouraging women and serving as a role model to younger generations (Wyer et al., 2013). 

In fact, her daughter Irene Joliot-Curie was the scientist who studied radioactivity and won a Nobel Prize with her husband in 1935 (Cater-Steel & Cater, 2010). Lise Meitner was also another woman who was drawing her inspiration from Marie Curie. Lise Meitner was the engine behind scientific publications pertinent to nuclear fission. Eventually, she became the first woman to be conferred with a Fermi Award. More financial resources should also be invested towards supporting and appointing women who lecture in science and technology. There are also some inherent biases that ought to be done away with to ensure women become successful in their corresponding scientific fields. For instance, after graduation, the majority of women are confronted with a number of barriers while joining their professional careers. Such barriers comprise bias in recruitment as well as hiring procedures (Wang & Hartsell, 2013). 

Employers have inculcated a perception that men can execute more intricate and technical functions better than their female counterparts. The manner, in which evaluation of scores and recommendation takes place, gives an impression that most male candidates are chosen over females. As a result, women find it difficult to seek employment despite their qualifications. This is illustrated in the figure below:  

From the above diagram, Level A has been used as a representation of entry level to an academic research career, while Level E represents professorial level appointment. It is also apparent that participation of women in science and research workforce is subject to low retention levels. In fact, few women go beyond the post-doctoral career stage. Therefore, there should be a form of intervention that reduces the degree of such discrimination practices and accords fair chances and opportunities to all genders. The future of women in science will be successful when the world, governments, and international organizations undertake the initiative of designing and implementing policies that encourage women’s participation in the realm of science (Mitter & Rowbotham, 2003). However, the nature of implemented policies will vary from one region to another. 

The initiatives will also incorporate policy instruments that would surpass gender parity that subsists in the field of science. Incentives should also be offered so as to lure more women into pursuing science and advancing their studies. In fact, as of today, postgraduate earn almost the similar compensation as graduates in similar fields. However, those pursuing other areas of specialization, such as education and commerce, do not have relatively the same income. This can be shown in the figure below.  

From the above figure, it is apparent that those pursuing management and commerce obtain higher remuneration when compared with science graduates.


The role of women in the society can be increased by ensuring the availability of education as it acted as a tool to improve their livelihoods. Some iconic women have been in the forefront of technology and brought about significant changes that have had an impact on our way of life. An example is Grace Murray Hopper who has been the engine behind computer programming and has had an impact on the computer technology and literacy.  Moreover, despite women being actively involved in technology, they face some inherent challenges that might impede their technological advancements. Such challenges comprise their motherly duties of bringing forth life and perception that their male counterparts are more proficient in whatever they engage in. This raises a dire need for women who have made it in science and technology to encourage and mentor young women by inculcating a mind-set that everything is possible.

Jul 11, 2019 in Research
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