Daily, through the Girls in Science 4 SDGs platform, we combat the issue of gender inequality in the field of STEM. We talk about the importance of mentors in involving more women in science and we discuss visibility: the fact that girls need to see others doing science in order to be confident about their passions for the field. But how do we shed light on the accomplishments of women? Different organizations are making the achievements of women in STEM known. For example, the Royal Irish Academy pursued a project called Women on Walls, which involved commissioning a painting of eight women in science to highlight their accomplishments and to pose them as role models for other women.
On a smaller scale, my school Science Team is attempting to do the same thing. Our Science Team has held an annual science fair for the past three years, and this year, our theme was “women in science.” Each student selected a different woman in STEM whose accomplishments they believed deserved recognition and not only presented on the woman and did an experiment based on her work, but also dressed up as the scientist. We believed that by honoring the scientists, we would be able to draw attention to their work. Throughout the day, students and faculty around the school asked us who we were dressed up as, and even through these short interactions, we were able to teach people about the accomplishments of women who often go unrecognized.
For the science fair, I decided to focus on Karen Horney, a feminist psychologist who combatted some of Freud’s sexist theories and also created many theories of her own regarding both general psychology and the psychology of women. Horney believed in “ten neurotic needs” that every human requires, ranging from love and affection to the ability to live an inconspicuous life. Though some of her thoughts are dated, many of her ideas still ring true to today. For my experiment, I conducted a social science study in which I surveyed girls at my high school. I handed out three different surveys: one contained a statement that reflected Freud’s theory of “penis envy,” one contained a statement that reflected Horney’s theory of “womb envy,” and the third contained no statement. Each student had to read their survey and then rank each neurotic need from 1-5 depending on how much they felt they needed it. I aimed to discover how the theories of these psychologists affect how teenage girls live their lives. The results of my study showed that reading these different statements had a significant impact on how much people felt they needed four things: power, social recognition, independence, and living a discrete life.
Other students studied the work of women such as Hypatia, Katia Krafft, Hedy Lamarr, and Rosalyn Yalow, among others. The projects covered topics ranging from radio signaling to cryptology to radioactivity.
Overall, the fair was a great success and much of the high school stopped by to check out the experiments we had conducted. For the future, I believe that hosting events like this one and pursuing projects like that of the Royal Irish Academy will draw attention to the accomplishments of women who are often forgotten in the telling of history, and encourage other girls to pursue their scientific goals.