Women in science: no easy way up?
When you think of women in science, the first renowned ladies that come to your mind might be Marie Curie, Lise Meitner, Rosalind Franklin or Jane Goodall. However, influential women in science have already existed much earlier. In the fourth century A.D., Hypatia was born in Egypt. Tradition has is that Hypatia was the first woman in the world who studied and taught mathematics. Hypatia was taught and encouraged by her father, also a mathematician, and worked together with him on theories regarding the solar system. She is the only woman in Raphael's famous painting "The School of Athens". Raphael brought together a total of 58 acdemic people. Female quota 1511: 1.7 % - expandable.
Even today, according to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, the proportion of women in science is only about 29 % worldwide, and in southern Asia it is even less than 20 %. At just under 28 %, Germany is below the average. The proportion of female professors in Germany is only 20 %. The reason for this is not that fewer girls and women study, or decide for a scientific career after graduation, but rather that scientific careers are decided between the ages of 30 and 40. Mostly, this is also the phase of starting a family and settling down. The planning insecurity discourages many women from remaining in science and causes them to hold back professionally.
A question of equality
However, perseverance is increasingly worthwhile, because there are now special support programs and foundations for women in science, and female applicants for professorships are given preference if they are equally qualified. However, this kind of equality is not sustainable and leaves a strange taste in terms of women's academic qualifications. Moreover, the road to a professorship is long and exhausting. Long-term gender equality in science can therefore only exist if neither women nor men are given preference, but if everyone is given the opportunity to combine work and family life in order to make their scientific career more family-friendly. In order for something to happen and for gender equality programs to work, girls and women must also be supported in persevering or even motivated to study and pursue a career in science.
Motherhood and science
"And what about your desire to have children?“, "Do you think that this job is compatible with having a family?", "You are over thirty – would you hire yourself if you were the boss? It’s pretty risky.“.
These are those kind of questions that men in job interviews probably rarely or never get to hear. As a woman, you get to hear them very often in both job interviews and in random conversations, and that is really sad! Yes, it is still the women who give birth to children and still not the men. No, it does not make women worse employees. No, it does not make women worse scientists.
What is already true today: it is possible to be a mother and scientist at the same time, but behind every mother in science there should better be an encouraging partner, family, and/or friends who support her to make both possible. The desire to have children should not be a reason for not being able to work as a scientist anymore, nor is a career in science a reason to forego starting a family. Women in science are worth having both and where is a will, there is a way.
"What if I fall? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?"
Many girls and women are still too self-critical with their skills and knowledge and often stand in the way of their (scientific) career themselves. For this reason, equality initiatives should and must motivate young girls at school and show that they can learn and study everything from private expectations without restriction. A self-confident handling of one's own interests and ambitions increases the chance of successfully staying in science. An important role in the promotion of girls and young women is also played by scientific communication by and through women in science and the making visible of role models. In Germany, for example, the nationwide network initiative
Komm, mach MINT!
is successfully working to get girls and women interested in the still male-dominated STEM degree programs and professions. I myself am very proud to be able to talk about my scientific career in an interview and hopefully encourage girls and young women to take up a STEM course of study or profession.