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elly's picture

"Real" Science

In my course on the history of women in genetics with Greg Davis, we discuss women and their role in the development of the sciences, particularly developmental biology and genetics. One of the reasons that women were able to enter these fields earlier on than many other fields of science was because it was not considered to be a "real science" yet. While this is kind of a sad thought, it is great that today this field is still dominated by women and it has become a highly respected, developed area of study.

What interests me about this connection is that we see very few women in the fields of engineering and computer science today, and at the same time the social sciences are not considered to be hard sciences but are often full of female students and professors. Do we see the distinction of fields as useful here? Why are the social sciences, which rely on qualitative research and study rather than quantitative, and may focus much more on writing and literature, not represented as real science? Is it because of the facts just mentioned? I wonder one day whether these distinctions between sciences (as the "real" science of the late 19th and early 20th centuries has changed quite a bit) will change in the years to come, and whether or not the separate categories really mean more than what they currently represent for our society. And hey, society evolves right?

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