This house believes that Science is not a boy’s club and girls have an equal claim to it.
The Nobel Prize about which my esteemed friend mentioned was established in the year 1895 and the first awards were given away in 1901. I would like to bring to your notice ladies and gentlemen that it’s very first woman recipient was Marie Curie who won it in Physics in 1903, that is within 3 years of its commencement and won it again in 1911 for Chemistry, two very pure sciences.
It is very easy to say that women have neither the inclination nor the intelligence to have a scientific temper but I would like to bring to your notice the fact that more women have been burnt at stake than men for magic, alchemy and the occult, the precursors of modern science.
Ladies and gentlemen, science has remained mostly a male bastion because of the lack of opportunities and exposure to women and not to lack of eagerness to explore and experiment. The lesser number of female scientists is due to relegating women to domesticity and keeping them away from formal education for a long time. Their spirit of enquiry was suffocated over ages and their abilities questioned. But whenever they have got an opportunity, they have made best use it and flourished. So, while India has sent only Rakesh Sharma in space, Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams from NASA have crossed the skies and been in space.
Today, with better opportunities, more exposure and freedom to explore, the women have been steadily making a place for themselves in the field of science. In 2009 there were not one but a total of 5 women Nobel laureates.
Proposition mentioned the absence of Mathematical theorems bearing any woman’s name. Yes, the women have been few in this field, but they have started making inroads with Maryam Mirzakhani becoming the first woman recipient of the Fields Medal, the highest award in Mathematics in 2014. There will soon be more women making their presence felt with the opportunities that are available in present scenario.
There are innate biases and stereotypes which have given rise to this mindset that women can’t excel in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. There is no solid scientific research that supports this idea. It has been etched in the human psyche that men are better at sciences and women at arts. And if this were true why are there more male Nobel laureates in literature and more men established as writers, painters, even Michelin starred chefs than women? Women are underrepresented in almost all the fields because of the patriarchal mindset of the society. They have been striving harder to make themselves count in every field, including science. They are making themselves count slowly and surely.
Women have an equal claim to the so-called boy’s club that is science because it is them who are the reason why men have been able to gain entry in that club. In all probability there was a lady teacher responsible for the instruction of basic science and development of so-called scientific temper in every student. If women didn’t have it, how could they give it?
You must have seen the much-acclaimed movie Hidden Figures, which tells the story of three African-American female mathematicians who played a pivotal role in astronaut John Glenn’s launch into orbit. There’s a scene in the movie where discrepancies are found on the day of the launch and they almost decide to abort the mission when Astronaut Glenn requests that Katherine, one of the three mathematicians be called in to check them. He says that he would not hesitate to go in space if she says that the calculations are correct. This speaks volumes about women’s ability and contribution in any field, science or otherwise.
Ladies and gentlemen, the field of science is an open field for anyone who wishes to play here irrespective of gender, religion, race and demography and no one can and should lay claim to it as their domain alone.