Feminist. Not everyone knows what it stands for. Many may think that it means: the one who believes women are better than men. I’ve heard it millions of times. Whenever this topic comes up, I’ll find myself with a stunned face. People truly believe that feminism is about hating men, and giving all the power to women. It is not. This a quote from the Cambridge dictionary: “[Feminism is] the belief that women should be allowed the same rights, power, and opportunities as men and be treated in the same way” (I had to look it up once, to proof to the person I was talking to, that he had the wrong idea about it).
When women are not seen as equal to men, it affects girls and young women. For many years, there weren’t a lot of women in STEM careers, therefore, a lot of girls didn’t have someone to look up to. Many might had even felt like they didn’t belong there. This is why women in STEM careers are so important. The increasing number of women in STEM, increased the motivation of girls to persuade their dreams in those fields. And, as Nichelle Nichols once said: “Science is not a boy’s game, it’s not a girls’ game. It’s everyone’s game. It’s about where we are and where we’re going.”
I can’t tell who were the first women in STEM. I can’t tell what they did. But I know, that if it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be writing this and I wouldn’t feel like I can do whatever I want. Those women faced stereotypes, they challenged the social norms of the time and wrestled with conservatism in world ruled by men. But that still happens. Nowadays, women all over the world outbrave those obstacles when they start studying a STEM area.
Don’t get me wrong. Over the time, the idea of women working in a STEM career has become more acceptable. But, if we look back on (you don’t need to go way back, just look at the 20th century) we see how much women have struggled to be part of this world.
Take for example, Rosalind Elsie Franklin (1920 –1958 – I told you we didn’t need to go way back). This woman has become one of the most famous on the STEM field for her work and for what happen to her. She discovered the molecular structure of DNA. However, the credits of this work went to James D. Watson and Francis Crick when, in 1962, they received a Nobel Prize, which is the most prestigious award in the academic realm. She was not the only one. There are many other examples that we have heard about, like Chien-Shiung Wu (1912-1997), whose experiment (Wu experiment) contradicts the law of conservation of parity, and Jocelyn Bell Burnell (born July 15, 1943), who discovered the first radio pulsars, and many others that we will never know. This type of women, who were looked down on by some men, have taken us to where we are. They have made us think about the injustice women have been through for the last centuries and have given us the desire to change that.
On the other hand, in the beginning of the 20th century, women were starting to get recognition in STEM fields, when the Nobel Prize was first given to a woman in 1903, Marie Curie. Over 80 years (1903 until 1980), only 19 women were honored with this prize. However, over half of that time, 40 years (1980 until 2017), 30* women won a Nobel Prize. This “upgrade” reflects the work of humankind to improve themselves into better human beings. The fight isn’t over, but we have done amazing accomplishments over the past century!
A few years ago, it was unthinkable that women would work at NASA, Google, or become the CEO of a company. We have been able to do away with those thoughts, and nowadays, it has become more and more usual to see women working in big projects. Nevertheless, women are still discriminated either by getting less paid than men or by getting less opportunities.
The world is changing, science is improving. If we want to keep up we can’t spend our time looking at each other as if we aren’t the same species. As if we don’t deserve the same rights. As if we are not the same, even though we are totally different from each other.
I am a feminist. Are you?
By 1000 Girls, 1000 Futures Mentee,
Ana Raquel Rodrigues