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Additional info for Athena Unbound: The Advancement of Women in Science and Technology
29 This Page Intentionally Left Blank 3 Gender, sex and science The strong effect of culturally defined gender roles persists in science and other traditionally male professions through the social meanings attached to gender. Rather than a fluid perspective of human attributes that can be held by members of either sex, behavioral characteristics are frequently presumed to be innate and immutably ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ in the same way as one’s biology. The thesis that science is masculine, with ‘masculine’ understood as a cultural rather than as a biological term, ties issues of women in science to broader questions of gender roles and how they are culturally defined and transmitted from birth (Ruskai, 1990; Hyde, 1994).
The achievement orientation of the scientist depends on competitive success. Yet for females, competitive success is often accompanied by great emotional costs based on family attitudes and their early experiences in the classroom. In many ways, women are unable to choose to do science; society has already chosen who will do science through its construction of gender roles. There is considerable evidence of the relationship between the adolescents’ notions of gender-appropriateness and recruitment to scientific careers (Eiduson and Beckman, 1973; NSF, 1988).
Although not as immediately striking as the elimination of Jewish scientists from German universities in the 1930s, the long-term relative exclusion of women has had a similar hampering effect on the conduct of science. An earlier body of research identified as fallacious the notion that advancing age inevitably inhibited high-quality scientific work (Merton and Zuckerman, 1976). Unwarranted presumptions that youth was associated with high scientific achievement had served to justify extreme work pressures in early career stages.