These scientific findings can certainly be used to positive effect. “If we have a better understanding of how biology impacts the developing brain, we might be better able to tailor educational practices to specific students,” says Stevens. In other words, nurture can be manipulated so that it more effectively interacts with nature to develop particular skills. If we ignore biology, says Stevens, “we’re not acknowledging that there might be another factor impacting things and then we wonder why things aren’t as effective.”
She honed in on what would make women useful and intellectually fulfilled, rather than what would make them pliant and pleasant companions. She declared that, yes, a woman should know all the arts of household maintenance, so that she could do anything that life required in terms of her own self-preservation without idly relying upon others. But practical household skills were not to be the extent of her kingdom – that knowledge must be supplemented by regular reading, directed with passion and sympathy from an early age, in history and, most importantly, in science. She recommended several periodicals containing detailed science articles that should be included in the reading regimen of girls, and advocated also for the inculcating of a love of nature through first gardening, and then botany more generally.
“We know that diverse teams with an equal gender balance solve problems more effectively,” Marie says. “And here we are faced with arguably humanity’s biggest challenge of all — our world is changing massively as our demands on the resources grow — and women are just not at the leadership table.”
At the core of the Benchley approach was the motto of putting animal care at the head of the zoo’s list of priorities. Animals were to be given as much space as possible, with terrain features that matched the animals’ natural behaviors. Against much professional advice, she spear-headed an initiative to develop a cage-less enclosure, creating large open air grottos surrounded by moats in place of the de rigeur steel cages of the past. She also ensured that each animal had a separate private area which they always had access to, a place they could go when they felt stressed or anxious, even if it meant their public exhibit remained empty. The zoo, at last, was about the animals, not the audience.
Is science sexist? Of course it is, in two ways. First, women in science (including engineering, math, medicine) face discrimination, harassment and other forms of maltreatment from men. Second, male scientists portray females as males’ intellectual inferiors. These two forms of sexism are mutually reinforcing. That is, male scientists use science to justify their sexist attitudes toward and maltreatment of women. Then, when women fail to thrive, the men say, See? Women just aren’t our equals.
According to the latest PISA report, only one in 20 girls considers working in a scientific or technological field in the future, compared with one in five boys. It is not because they do not like science or because they do not do as well at it, not by any means. The problem, as Álvarez Caro insists, is that they are not given a chance to try it.
Neuroscience is one of the most skewed fields when it comes to testing on female physiology. One review found single-sex brain studies using male animals outnumbered those using females 6.7 to one. Aarthi Gobinath, a neuroscientist at the University of British Columbia, calls this a “hidden gap” in her field. She says there’s reason to question the assumption that the brains of males and females are identical, particularly in unique states like pregnancy.
"As part of our mentoring and professional development activities, we are not always directly connecting our PROGRESS students with faculty, but there is something about their interaction with faculty members that is an important predictor in their intention to stay in the earth and environmental sciences," Fischer said. "That surprised us; we didn't expect this to be so important."
Part of a Unesco report on women in science around the world, countries were coloured in according to what proportion of their researchers were women - the more male-dominated the research community, the darker the shade of blue; the more women, the brighter the pink. Sticking out from the crowd in Asia, Myanmar lit up, the pinkest of them all. According to the tables, 85.5% of researchers in Myanmar were women.
Boroditsky's research has found that the way people often describe objects correlates with the object's given gender in a language. In German, for instance, "bridge" carries a feminine pronoun, and Boroditsky said Germans are more likely to refer to bridges as "beautiful" or "elegant," both typically feminine traits. Spanish-speakers, meanwhile, will refer to bridges as "strong" or "sturdy," as the Spanish word is masculine.