Here at LOVELIVE, we get to work with many medical companies and see the groundbreaking work they produce daily. We are lucky to work with a considerable number of women who are at the forefront of those companies, too. It is hard to imagine the medical field decades ago, when women made up such a small percentage of the doctors and professors that make such an indescribable difference in people’s lives across the world – and yet, it wasn’t that long ago when we couldn’t pursue higher education in the field of science because of our gender. Those differences can still be felt today, as women only represent 33% of researchers globally and have won less than 4% of Nobel Prizes for science despite ground-breaking research and discoveries. (For Women in Science, 2023).
Some of the most groundbreaking discoveries from the past were falsely attributed to men for decades. Did you know that the invention of wireless communication was largely due to Hedy Lamarr’s findings? Or that Vera Rubin was the first astrophysicist who confirmed the existence of dark matter in the atmosphere? Or, even though the initiation of the first computer program is attributed to John von Neumann, Dr Hopper was the one who invented the language and codes to program it. Ada Lovelace wrote the instructions for the first computer program in the mid-1800s. Rosalind Franklin’s x-ray photographs first revealed the DNA’s structure to be a double helix. Lise Meitner discovered nuclear fission; a discovery fully credited to her lab partner Otto Hahn instead. Some of the items we use daily and can’t imagine our lives without were invented by women – windshield wipers, hair straightener, the modern design for a bra, a square-bottomed paper bag, disposable diapers. (Chavez, 2019)
When it comes to the scientific output, figures indicate that women publish less than men. However, the recent research shows that it’s not exactly due to women being less productive, but rather the fact that their work is valued less, and they often don’t receive any credit for their part in the research that led to the publication. A famous example of that is the previously mentioned Rosalind Franklin, whose huge contribution to the discovery of the structure of DNA went unrecognized till not long after her death. (Nature, 2022)
While there is still a fair bit of work to be done, there’s much more support in place for girls who are passionate about their career in science – mostly in the very useful form of scholarships. Earthwatch’s ‘Girls in Science’ fellowship, The L’Oréal Foundation‘s ‘For Girls in Science’ program designed to encourage high school girls to choose scientific careers, The British Council’s scholarships for young women in STEM fields just to mention a few – the list is long and growing. There is also no shortage of inspiring women for them to look up to, and while it’s impossible to list all of the women involved in the incredible scientific breakthroughs in the past few years it’s important to mention a few, starting with Professor Sarah Gilbert, who – after having led the first trial for an Ebola vaccine back in 2014 – went on to design the Oxford vaccine which was widely used in the fight against COVID in the UK. Professor Teresa Lambe, Prof. Gilbert’s colleague, was one of the co-developers of that vaccine, too. Dr. Jennifer Doudna, along with microbiologist Emmanuelle Charpentier won the Nobel Prize award in Chemistry in 2020 for their development of CRISPR technology which can be used to edit genes, a technique that can also be used in human therapeutics to agricultural applications, and is widely celebrated as having profoundly changed biomedical research. Kristen Marhaver, a marine biologist, has recently won the National Geographic Explorer award for her research on corals, which has helped the threatened species to survive. She was the first person to grow endangered Caribbean pillar coral, and is currently working on new methods to grow corals in hope that the reefs can one day be rebuilt. Currently, the top three female scientists are Dr. JoAnn E. Mason, Dr. Virginia M.-Y Lee and Dr. Aviv Regev – the existence of these rankings is vital in helping female scientists get the credit they rightfully deserve.
Taking into consideration the above, it is an exciting time for girls who are choosing to pursue a career in science. Women’s contribution to scientific research all around the world is undeniable and growing – and here at LOVELIVE, we’re honoured to work in a field that helps bring them to light.
Post written by Karolina Fedorowicz, LOVELIVE Production Editor
Visual created by Katie Wilson, LOVELIVE Senior Designer
1. For Women In Science (2023) [Online] https://www.forwomeninscience.com/ [Accessed January 2023]
2. Chavez, K. (2019) ‘19 Groundbreaking Discoveries by Women That Were Credited to Men’ Marie Claire [Online] 28th February. [Accessed January 2023] https://www.marieclaire.com/culture/g5026/female-discoveries-credited-to-men/
3. Ross, M.B., Glennon, B.M., Murciano-Goroff, R. et al. ‘Women are credited less in science than men.’ Nature 608, 135–145 (2022). [Accessed January 2023] https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-022-04966-w