Celebrating International Day of Women and Girls in Science…
International Day of Women and Girls in Science is celebrated as women today have come into their own and stand on par with their male counterparts when it comes to making path-breaking contributions in the field of STEM. Women and their achievements have been downplayed since time immemorial because that is how the system is, and that is how biases are. Gertrude B. Stein, Biochemist, Pharmacologist, and winner of the 1988 Nobel prize in Physiology or Medicine, said, “I hadn’t been aware that there were doors closed to me until I started knocking on them.” The very fact that we need to celebrate a day such as this shows that gender inequality persists.
However, if one were to take an objective look at all that women have achieved in the past then these biases would be shattered within seconds. On this International Day of Women and Girls in Science, let us explore the works of trailblazing women who have made a name for themselves in the STEM field. Let us celebrate some lesser-known female scientists as well and discover how women were the ones behind discoveries that were ultimately attributed to men.
The discovery of the Greenhouse effect -The gradual warming of the earth’s atmosphere- is usually credited to British scientist John Tyndall. But it was actually Eunice Foote who first theorized and demonstrated the greenhouse effect. In the 1850’s, she performed a series of experiments where she filled glass cylinders with different gasses, placed them in the sun, and measured temperature changes. This led her to discover that the sun’s rays are the warmest when passing through carbon dioxide. Until recently it was Tyndall who was credited with this foundational discovery but climate scientists are now seeking to right past wrongs by giving Eunice Foote the recognition she deserves.
Lise Meitner suggested her chemist colleagues Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassman to try bombarding Uranium atoms with neutrons in order to learn more about Uranium decay. It was this hint by Meitner that led to the discovery of nuclear fission: the ability to split atoms. This discovery changed nuclear physics and the world forever as it laid the foundation for the development of the atomic bomb and nuclear reactors. Despite her involvement, the men surrounding Meitner were credited with the discovery. When the Nobel prize was awarded to Hahn for “his discovery of the fission of heavy nuclei” in 1945, Meitner was not even mentioned. She was nominated 48 times for the Nobel in Physics and Chemistry but never won.
It is usually taught in schools that Watson and Crick discovered the double Helix structure but it was Rosalind Franklin who took the game-changing x-ray, photo 51, of DNA in 1952. Taking the photo was a huge challenge in itself and it took Franklin another year to fully interpret and describe the double helix structure we know today. And her contribution to DNA is not the only feather in her cap. For her PhD thesis in Chemistry at Cambridge, she unraveled the structure and porosity of coal, which helped the British develop better gas masks during World War 2.
ACCEPT AND RESOLVE
These are just a few instances where women were robbed of the recognition they deserved. The general always resembles the particular and there must be thousands of such stories where women were not given due credit. There is no dearth of stories where women and girls personified immense courage and great intelligence. On this International Day of Women and Girls in Science, let us accept the facts. Let us accept that women and girls have played a key role in shaping our present. Let us accept that the notion that women are inferior to men is archaic and bogus and that it does not stand the test of scrutiny. Let us resolve to motivate young girls and women to forge careers in the STEM field. Aasraa is doing so in it own small way.
THE GIRLS @AASRAA’S TINKERING LAB
At Aasraa, we believe in the equality of boys and girls; men and women. We provide the same opportunity to both and then closely monitor the development of each child. In our experience girls have proven to be as good as the boys and in some cases, they even outshine them in subjects related to the STEM field. We have witnessed this in Aasraa’s Tinkering Lab, an exciting place where our children, both boys and girls come to learn and grow.
The Tinkering Lab is different from regular practical labs because the children have a lot more freedom to give shape to their ideas. A regular practical lab follows a fixed curriculum and involves guided experimentation. The tinkering lab on the other hand allows for open-ended experimentation and multiple solutions. Our girls look forward to having sessions in the lab actively take part in coming up with efficient and sustainable solutions for existing problems.
They recently worked on a project called the Hologram Science Project which uses holographic technology to create interactive 3D models of scientific concepts. This project allows students to explore and interact with 3D models and enables them to have a better visual understanding of Geometry. Another project the girls recently worked on is titled “Do Humans Conduct Electricity?” This project has been developed to learn about electricity in an engaging and accessible manner. The project includes activities that explore the history of electricity and its development over time.
Sustainability is a big part of education at Aasraa and the latest project that our girls are working on is to help the environment. Seed balls are a seed dispersal device that will help restore habitats by combating soil erosion. Seed balls are made of clay, compost and seeds that have been mixed together and then rolled into small balls. The clay protects seeds from harsh weather conditions and the compost provides nutrients for the plants to grow.
The underlying reason behind the International Day for Women and Girls in Science is GENDER INEQUALITY. This bias that causes a divide between genders has been a persistent problem throughout history. Things are slowly changing but we need to accelerate more rapidly. The only way to curb this bias is to change our outlook and the outlook of those around us. And changing our outlook is not enough. We need to take effective and positive action to encourage and girls to enter the STEM field. If this blog has made any point, it is that working hand in hand with women in the field of Science will only accelerate us towards a brighter future. We must give women the credit they deserve and break the age-old and pestilential biases that have crippled humanity for so long.