Happy International Day of Women and Girls in Science!
published on 11.02.21
11th February is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, a day proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly to promote women’s participation in science and technology. Despite all the progress we have made in terms of gender, UNESCO warns that women still face many obstacles. Proof of this is that only 30% of scientific researchers in the world are women, which shows how far we are from equality.
Throughout history – but also today in many parts of the world – women have not had access to the same education as men and have been excluded from certain fields of knowledge. Leaving aside these impediments to accessing quality education, another cause of the lack of women in science is the glass ceiling. “Glass ceiling” is a metaphor used to describe the barriers they encounter as they climb the career ladder. These are impediments culturally constructed by gender roles and the inputs received from birth (sexism, being questioned more often than men, lack of female role models…). The fact of being questioned more often, of receiving inputs that they do not belong to these spaces, means that many women do not even consider research.
What is the Matilda effect?
But what about those women who do have access to science? The term “Matilda effect” refers to the social situation where women scientists receive less credit and recognition for their scientific work than they should receive. Margaret W. Rossiter named this phenomenon after Matilda J. Gage, the first women’s rights activist to denounce this situation.
Female references in education
A study by Ana López Navajas published in 2014 analyzed the presence of women and men in ESO (First four years of High School in Spain) textbooks, as well as the vision of women conveyed by education. A total of 115 textbooks from three different publishers were analyzed, covering all subjects and all years of ESO. The results showed a female presence of only 12.8%. Moreover, when we find women in textbooks, we find them mostly in domestic contexts, while in scientific, economic, or social fields they are almost invisible.
#NoMoreMatildas is a campaign that fights against the Matilda effect. They denounce that this lack of female role models has a profound impact on girls’ career aspirations. The lack of female role models results in a lower presence of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) careers. This is why they propose to recover the figure of women who have been undervalued in the history of science, “to awaken the scientific vocation of all those girls who have been made to think that science was a man’s job”.