AN ANALYSIS of the subject of women in science could be accomplished
in several ways. It could be about the science that women make, or about the
women who have made science, or about what science makes of women. It could be
approached from a technical perspective, in a historical framework, or perhaps
even as a statistical review. Though each of these approaches is explored
below, for many women the subject of women in science is very personal because
it involves the struggle of women to become educated in science, to practice
science in spite of many odds, and to help set or change the priorities of
science. Women scientists have begun to reject the myth of science as impartial
or impersonal, as it has been defined over centuries, and to propose, instead,
that it is especially in their personal approach to science that women will
make their greatest contribution to global prosperity and peace. Therefore, the
things that have sometimes been considered the chief deterrents to their
practice of science (their sensitivity, their language, their childbearing and
child rearing, their anger and compassion) may be their greatest strengths.
An examination of women in science
is at the same time painful and exciting, but its purpose is not so much to
prescribe a formula for world transformation at the hands of women scientists
as to discover the attitude of mind that will permit an actualization of
women's potential as women and men work together to create peace and prosperity
The writings of the Baha’i Faith
provide a conceptual framework that encourages the involvement of women in the
scientific endeavor and delineates the unique qualities that women can bring to
the sciences. Through examining the lives of early women scientists whose
contributions revolutionized their field one can glimpse those unique qualities
The Baha’i writings also provide a
standard for understanding the psychological barriers encountered by women who
wish to enter male-dominated sciences and for validating the struggle most
central to women's lives--that of balancing career and parental
responsibilities. Finally, they provide the moral authority for demanding the
changes that must take place in the scientific community if humanity is to
benefit from women's contributions.
FUTURE PROMISE: The Connection
between Women, Science, and Peace
THE Baha’i writings are not only historically unique as a
religious doctrine in explicitly promoting the equality of women and men but
are also explicit on the subject of women in science. Moreover, they make an
unequivocal connection between the participation of women in all arenas of
society and the attainment of world peace:
The emancipation of women, the
achievement of full equality between the sexes, is one of the most important,
though less acknowledged prerequisites of peace. Only as women are welcomed
into full partnership in all fields of human endeavor will the moral and
psychological climate be created in which international peace can emerge. 
According to Bahá'u'lláh, the
Founder of the Bahá'i Faith, peace is not attainable unless unity is
established, and unity is only attainable through justice.  For, as 'Abdu'l-Bahá, His son and appointed
interpreter of His writings, explains, "Without equality this will be
impossible because all differences and distinction are conducive to discord and
Economic justice implies the
elimination of extreme poverty and the equitable distribution of wealth and
resources. For this to take place social and economic development on an
unprecedented scale must be fostered. It is in the connection between
development and peace (peace being defined as the unity arising from equality
and social and economic justice) that women scientists can bring to bear their
'Abdu'l-Bahá expounded on numerous
occasions on His father's principle of the equality of women and men. In a talk
'Abdu'l-Bahá gave in Sacramento, California, in 1912, He connected women to
global prosperity, saying that, "Until womankind reaches the same degree
as man, until she enjoys the same arena of activity, extraordinary attainment
for humanity will not be realized; humanity cannot wing its way to heights of
real attainment." He went on to say that "woman must receive the same
education as man and all inequality be adjusted." While enjoining both
women and men to chose occupations of service to humanity, in a talk in Boston,
Massachusetts, He specifically encouraged women to devote their "energies
and abilities toward the industrial and agricultural sciences" and seek to
assist humankind "in that which is most needful."
If one wonders why 'Abdu'l-Bahá put
such emphasis on women's involvement in science, His views on science itself
are illuminating. "Science," He says, "is the very foundation of
all individual and national development. Without this basis of investigation
development is impossible." He further testifies to the permanence of this
power once it is obtained by an individual or country, stating that "All
blessings are divine in origin, but none can be compared with this power of
intellectual investigation and research. . .
All other blessings are temporary... this is a kingship and
dominion which none may usurp or destroy." It follows that He wanted women, as well as men, to be empowered
to bring about social and economic development and that He believed that social
progress, including world peace itself, was dependent upon the full
participation of women in the scientific and social arenas.
WOMEN AND DEVELOPMENT
ADDRESSING the relationship between women and development,
the Universal House of Justice, the supreme governing and legislative body of
the Bahá'i Faith, has written that "it is through educated mothers that
the benefits of knowledge can be most effectively and rapidly diffused
throughout society." 'Abdu'l-Bahá asserts that
There can be no improvement unless
the girls are brought up in schools and centers of learning, unless they are
taught the sciences and other branches of knowledge, and unless they acquire
the manifold arts, as necessary, and are divinely trained. For the day will
come when these girls will become mothers. Mothers are the first educators of
children, who establish virtues in the child's inner nature. They encourage the
child to acquire perfections and goodly manners, warn him against unbecoming
qualities, and encourage him to show forth resolve, firmness, and endurance
under hardship, and to advance on the highroad to progress. 
Yet a brief look at the
underdevelopment of women in the world reveals their plight. According to 1980
United Nations figures, women constitute one-half of the world's population and
do two-thirds of the work but earn one-tenth of the income and own only one
one-hundredth of the property; two-thirds of women are illiterate. In Women
in the World: An International Atlas, published in 1986, geographers Joni
Seager and Ann Olson affirm that, compared to their male counterparts,
"women have less power, less autonomy, more work, less money, and more
responsibility. Women everywhere have a smaller share of the pie; if the pie is
very small (as in poor countries), women's share is smaller
still." More recent
assessments—for example, one published in 1997—have shown, in fact, that
"the global gulf between the rich and poor has widened . . .. the poorest
20 percent of the world's population has seen their share of global income
decline from 2.3 percent to 1.4 percent, while the richest 20 percent rose from
70 percent to 85 percent. Women constitute the biggest single group of the
Margaret Snyder, founding director
of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), notes that women
"are the providers of food, fuel, water, and often the whole family
income--the sustainers and developers of their families, communities and
countries.... the fate of women is a critical determinant of the fate of whole
societies." An article in the Food and Agriculture Organization Review
provides a description of the daily life of rural women in India that mirrors
the lives of many peasant women throughout the world and makes concrete Snyder's
Landless peasant women in India
account for 70 percent of the female peasant population. They work more than 14
hours a day. In addition to work on the farm more than half their time is
devoted to their children and to household chores such as fetching water and
gathering firewood. In some areas women farmhands work an average of 310 days a
year and are over-worked during peak periods, as during sowing, weeding, and
harvesting. Over-work increases risk of miscarriages, reduces breast-feeding
time, and affects the mortality rate in children under five years of age. It is
estimated that rural women in India work about 43 per cent more hours than
their male counterparts. For women, mechanization has neither reduced the
number of working hours nor made household chores any easier. And they are
still paid less than the men."
In Africa women produce up to 80
percent of the continent's food and in Western nations perform 30 percent of
agricultural work." Because many of the development policies
implemented in the 1970s and 1980s failed to involve women in their planning or
to be sensitive to their needs, they resulted in greater disparity. According
to one FAO expert, "it is important to consult peasant women and to
involve them in the development plans, for without their involvement we can
only worsen their situation.”
The Prosperity of Humankind, a document released by the Bahá'i
International Community (a nongovernmental organization accredited to the
United Nations) on the subject of development, states that "It is
unrealistic to imagine that the vision of the next stage in the advancement of
civilization can be formulated without a searching reexamination of the
attitudes and assumptions that currently underlie approaches to social and
economic development." Among the issues that must be reexamined "is
the roles assigned in it to the various protagonists."
Therefore, the issue of women
succeeding as scientists, the educated women who are a privileged elite, goes
beyond their individual right to succeed. There is an intrinsic relationship
between women scientists and peasant women in the third world. The success and
proper orientation of the former is the key to the liberation of the latter. It
is critical to the very survival of the human race, to the development of the
world, to the freedom from poverty and misery of millions. It is an issue of
power, the power to change the condition of humankind, and it is part and
parcel of a shift in values that must take place in society eventually leading
to harmony and peace. Abdu'l-Bahá affirms that
The world in the past has been
ruled by force, and man has dominated over woman by reason of his more forceful
and aggressive qualities both of body and mind. But the balance is already shifting--force
is losing its weight and mental alertness, intuition, and the spiritual
qualities of love and service, in which woman is strong, are gaining
ascendancy. Hence the new age will be an age less masculine, and more permeated
with the feminine ideals--or, to speak more exactly, will be an age in which
the masculine and feminine elements of civilization will be more evenly
SCIENCE PERMEATED WITH FEMININE
BUT what is
special about women, and in what way must they be focused to help catalyze
change? Abdu'l-Bahá affirmed that women have certain qualities in which they
are strong, qualities they can bring to various human arenas that will, in
fact, transform them to such a degree that the resulting climate will be
conducive to harmony and peace. Among these are intuition and receptiveness,
mental alertness, "abundance of mercy and sympathy," concern for
"the needy and suffering," and "moral courage" greater than
that of men. Rather than suggesting that women emulate men Abdu'l-Bahá
exhorts them to "strive to show in the human world" that they
"are most capable and efficient, that their hearts are more tender and
susceptible than the hearts of men, that they are more philanthropic and
responsive toward the needy and suffering, that they are inflexibly opposed to
war and lovers of peace." It
is the author's belief that the qualities 'Abdu'l-Bahá suggested are highly
developed in women as a group arc universal qualities of human character.
Women's relative strength in these traits at the present time results from the
divergent emphasis in the evolution of the sexes. The shift required in
civilization, therefore, is for the positive female qualities to be given more
prominence and acceptance in various arenas of human endeavor. By applying such
qualities to science, women can encourage science to focus more sharply on the
social and economic development of humankind, thereby fulfilling its most noble
But what would science look like if
its primary goal were to serve unity and justice? Have women as yet
demonstrated the ability to be the catalysts for change in that direction? Can
one look to history for the first glimmerings of the application of those
unique female qualities when women began to enter previously male-dominated
fields of science? And if one encounters role models that exemplify
'Abdu'l-Bahá's assertion that women could bring a unique dimension to these
fields, can they be taken as role models by both men and women seeking to
conduct a more enlightened practice of science (one in which the male and
female aspects of civilization are more evenly balanced)?
When 'Abdu'l-Bahá said that women
must "especially devote" their "energies and abilities toward
the industrial and agricultural sciences," He suggested a focus for
women's influence in science. A review of the agricultural sciences in any
reputable university catalogue will show them to include a broad range of
biological and natural sciences, including botany, agronomy, genetics and
breeding, horticulture, soil science, entomology, plant pathology, animal
science, zoology, microbiology, public health, food processing, and so on. The
industrial sciences encompass all the engineering fields, chemistry, and any
and all forms of technology associated with industry.
A cursory survey of the
contributions women have made in some of these fields reveals women scientists
who have, indeed, exemplified qualities in which 'Abdu'l-Bahá says women excel.
When entering previously male-dominated fields they have evinced ground-breaking
influence not only by their accomplishments but also by methods and motivations
that differed from those of their male colleagues.
Practicality and "That Which
Is Most Needful." A focus on and concern for what 'Abdu'l-Bahá
says is "most needful" is richly illustrated by pioneer entomologist
Eleanor Ormerod, who was born in 1828 into the English upper class. When she
died in 1901, she was one of the most highly honored scientists of her day.
 Her greatest accomplishment was to
bring the study of insects out of academic halls and into the fields. Ormerod
invented efficient, inexpensive methods for eradicating injurious insects and
for the first time in history brought a systematic approach to saving crops and
livestock from their ravages. Her pamphlets and annual reports on pest control,
which she produced at her own expense, were the first published guides to
farmers on the subject. She worked anonymously for decades, but in 1877, when
she began publishing her Annual Report of
Observations of Injurious Insects, it became immediately popular, and
agriculturists throughout the world corresponded with her. Her research was
meticulous and scholarly (she built her own meteorological observation
station), but her reports also offered common-sense remedies using easily
available ingredients. Her widely published remedy for maggots plaguing
livestock is credited with saving half the cows in England in the late 1800s.
She was also responsible for devising the remedy when the Mediterranean
caterpillar threatened widespread destruction of the stored flour inventory in
the United States in 1889. She was not just an entomologist but also an
ecologist. When she retired, the London Times
wrote, "she revolutionized the subject of agricultural entomology, as it
was known twenty-five years ago."
By suggesting that women scientists
focus on that which is "most needful" to humanity, 'Abdu'l-Bahá may
have been tapping into a natural propensity of that sex, as some current
analysts are starting to observe. In an article on education in engineering,
Joe Alper, a writer for Science,
summarizes several researchers' observations:
Males are interested in engineering
problems no matter what, but women respond more energetically when these
problems are put in the context of helping people or the environment. It's not
that women aren't interested in engineering, . . . it's a question of context:
“Women aren't so interested in engineering as a technical matter, but as a
Lael Parrot, a writer for Resource magazine, recommends a strategy
for attracting women into engineering: "make science relevant. Girls
should be taught that science and technology can change the quality of people's
lives and alter social structures."
Empathy. When 'Abdu'l-Bahá asserted that
women's "hearts are more tender and susceptible than the hearts of
men," He may have been referring to women's capacity for empathy.
 Webster's New World Dictionary defines empathy as "the ability
to share in another's emotions, thoughts, or feelings.” History attributes the first use of empathy
as a scientific research tool in the field of primatology to Jane Goodall and
Diane Fossey, who are considered to have revolutionized this previously male-dominated
field by their "female approach" to the study of chimpanzees and
In 1960 Goodall's patience and
persistence in habituating the animals to her presence and her perceptiveness
in observation led to groundbreaking discoveries. Among other things, she found
that chimpanzees were omnivorous (not herbivores as previously thought) and
that they made tools from twigs and used them to extract termites from their
nests. The latter discovery prompted a redefinition of the long-held belief
that humans were the only toolmakers.
Contrasting the previous research
methods to Goodall's approach, researchers now agree "the payoff came from
the women's capacity to empathize with their subjects, seeing them as
individuals, whose life histories influenced the structure of the group."
Instead of numbering the chimpanzees, Goodal! "named the animals and used
words like 'individual,' 'emotion,' and 'personality.' "
Leaders in the field at the time
considered Goodall's approach unscientific and sentimental, ostracizing her and
insinuating that what she was doing was not appropriate science. Goodall
persisted in this female approach to science against the discouragement of the
male scientific culture. Now scientists admit, "empathy is very important
in primatology. It helps you to ask questions and to predict what your animals
are going to do." Empathy has
now become part of the scientific method in primatological research.
"Responsive toward the Needy
and Suffering." In Diane Fossey's efforts one sees an illustration
of the qualities of "mercy and
sympathy" and "concern for the needy and the suffering" that
'Abdu'l-Bahá extolled in women and that would help scientists focus not only on
the knowledge to be gained through scientific investigation but also on the
needs surrounding the object under study.
When Fossey began studying gorillas
in 1966 she also used the empathetic approach; for her the individuality of the
apes was paramount. Because so little was known about gorillas, her
dissertation became the baseline for understanding the species. According to Science writer Virginia Morrell,
"Fossey saw things primatologists had never viewed: female gorillas
transferring between groups; males killing infants to bring females into heat;
gorillas eating their own dung to recycle nutrients."
But Fossey became so deeply
engrossed with the animals she was studying that she crossed the line from
dispassionate observer and began to question the usefulness of her research in
light of the fact that gorillas were so endangered (at the time they numbered
only 250). Her heartbreaking and often gruesome encounters with poaching led
her to dedicate herself aggressively to conservation work and to protecting the
gorillas from poachers. Her anger at their condition fueled her international campaign,
until she was murdered in 1983. She is credited with having made the world
aware of the plight of the gorillas.
Primatologist George Shaller
commented on the impact of the path-breaking work of Goodall and Fossey, saying
that these primatologists "taught science that the great apes are true
individuals...They have given us an empathy with our closest relatives, and
that is the only thing that will save these animals in the end." The
"empathy" that was used as a tool of scientific research seems to
have become transformed here into a "mercy" and "concern for the
suffering" that triggered a successful conservation movement. According to
Fossey's [story] raises the issue
of what values scientists heed. Many studies have shown that a key difference
between men and women is that men often place a high value on theoretical
values--knowledge for its own sake--while women tend to evaluate knowledge
according to its usefulness. In Fossey's case, the two types of values were
intertwined from the beginning—since her scientific interest in the gorillas
was triggered by a passion for wildlife and a desire to make a difference in
Greater Moral Courage in Moments
of Crisis. Abdu'l-Bahá says moral courage is yet another quality in
which women excel: "The woman has greater moral courage than the man; she
has also special gifts which enable her to govern in moments of danger and
crisis." Rachel Carson, an
ecologist and the mother of the modern environmental movement, was known for
her great moral courage. She is credited with having sounded the alarm in 1962
when the widespread use of chemical pesticides in agriculture threatened the
ecological chain.  A highly
successful marine biologist and writer, she spent her career with the United
States Fish and Wildlife Service.
When a friend called her to witness
the wholesale killing of birds and harmless insects that had taken place in her
private bird sanctuary as a result of the state's spraying with DDT (under its
mosquito control program), Carson responded by publishing Silent Spring. Because she realized there were no government
agencies at the time dedicated to the preservation of the natural environment,
Carson felt the issue called for a changed political philosophy. She gathered
evidence from scientists in America and Europe on "not only the dangers of
DDT but also other chemicals with which modern man was poisoning earth, air and
water on a worldwide scale. She was questioning “not only the indiscriminate
use of poisons but also the basic irresponsibility of an industrialized,
technical society toward the natural world." Silent Spring was
violently attacked by the agricultural chemical industry, which viewed Carson's
assertions as a public-relations problem. They spent enormous sums of money to
ridicule both the author and her book. Crippled by arthritis and suffering from
bone cancer as she completed the book, Carson, nevertheless, defended her
premise and, until her death in 1964, played an important role in the initial
steps toward legislative action to limit the use of pesticides.
A unique set of factors contributed
to Carson's insight: she challenged the notion that science belongs in a
"separate compartment of its own, apart from everyday life." She
"was not ashamed of her emotional response to the forces of nature"
and "felt a spiritual closeness to the individual creatures about whom she
wrote." Her moral courage may
have, indeed, awakened humankind in a moment of danger and crisis, steering it
away from environmental destruction and toward a path of greater ecological
Intuition and Receptiveness.
'Abdu'l-Bahá states, "In some respects woman is superior to man. She is
more tender-hearted, more receptive, her intuition is more intense."
When asked to define the faculty of intuition, He said that
…the second sort of knowledge,
which is the knowledge of being, is intuitive; it is like the cognizance and
consciousness that man has of himself.
For example, the
mind and the spirit of man are cognizant of the conditions and states of the
members and component parts of the body, and are aware of all the physical
sensations; in the same way, they are aware of their power, of their feelings,
and of their spiritual conditions. This is the knowledge of being which man
realizes and perceives, for the spirit surrounds the body and is aware of its
sensations and powers. This knowledge is not the outcome of effort and study.
It is an existing thing; it is an absolute gift. 
Abdu'l-Bahá continues to develop the theme of intuition by
speaking of the interrelatedness of all things:
The most noble being on the earth
is man. He embraces the animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms--that is to say,
these conditions are contained in him to such an extent that he is the
possessor of these conditions and states; he is aware of their mysteries and of
the secrets of their existence. [Ibid.]
In this statement one sees that it is not anathema to use
intuition in the process of science, which is the delving into the realities of
things, for if the conditions of these kingdoms are contained within human
beings, the unraveling of their "mysteries and the secrets of their
existence" is the same as understanding ourselves. Part of the scientific
method, then, is to tap into this connectedness.
The use of intuition in science is
perhaps most controversially illustrated by Barbara McClintock, Nobel laureate
and discoverer of gene transposition. Through meticulous manipulation and
observation of the inheritance of pigment patterns in Indian corn, she made
what has come to be recognized as the most revolutionary genetic discovery
since Mendel's in 1865.  In 1951
she published the theory of gene transposition, postulating that genes do not
always behave in an orderly fashion in heredity but, triggered by developmental
events, sometimes actually jump around on a chromosome, or from one chromosome
to another. Her theory united the disciplines of cell genetics and
developmental biology, paving the way for the modern sciences of molecular
genetics and genetic engineering.
After McClintock's discovery of
transposition, she was ostracized by the scientific community and considered
eccentric, perhaps because the discovery was so revolutionary and because at
the time there were few geneticists in the world capable of understanding her
work. It took the scientific community thirty years to arrive slowly, through
numerous other lines of evidence, at an understanding of McClintock's 1951
discovery; The theory of gene transposition is now accepted, and, though
McClintock worked with plants, her discovery has made it possible to study
antibiotic-resistant bacteria, to seek a cure for African sleeping sickness,
and to help understand the mechanism of cancer.
Evelyn Fox Keller, McClintock's
biographer, has written about the reasons for the dual themes of success and
marginality characterizing her career. 
McClintock saw transposable elements as the key to developmental
regulation. Her contemporaries were not able to absorb her discovery because she
was a philosophical and methodological deviant. Her concept of nature, for
example, was that "anything you can think of you will
find...organisms...do everything we can think of, they do it better, more
efficiently, more marvelously." This meant that one had to "listen to
the material," to respect individual differences, not as aberrations, but
as possible clues to the greater picture. Instead of trying to fit knowledge
into a central dogma, discarding all exceptions as irrelevant, she pursued the
single exception with the greatest respect. Her work on transposition began, in
fact, from the observation of an aberrant pattern of pigmentation on a few
kernels of a single corn plant. "The important thing is to develop the
capacity to see one kernel [of maize] that is different and make it
understandable," she wrote. Her major criticism of contemporary research
was what she saw as inadequate humility, the scientist wanting to impose an
answer on the material; "if you'd only just let the material tell
you," she cautioned. 
McClintock's approach, now dubbed
"a feeling for the organism," is illustrated in her description of
chromosomes she was trying to identify through microscopic observation: "I
found that the more I worked with them, the bigger and bigger [the chromosomes
got], and when I was really working with them I wasn't outside, I was down
there. I was part of the system...And you forget yourself."
McClintock's language shows her
love for her object, a love that allows for intimacy without annihilation of
difference. This, Keller asserts, describes a form of thought that informs her
work. It is "a vocabulary of affection, of kinship, of empathy...
McClintock can risk the suspension of boundaries between subject and object
without jeopardy to science precisely because, to her, science is not premised
on that division.... [this] is the wellspring of her powers as a
scientist." "Love revealeth with unfailing and limitless power the
mysteries latent in the universe," 'Abdu'l-Bahá asserts. 
Furthermore, McClintock saw the
anomalous corn kernels not as evidence of disorder or lawlessness but as part
of a larger system of order, one that cannot be reduced to a single law. It was
part of the connectedness of all things. Her interest was not so much in
knowing the mechanism and structure of genes but in understanding the function
and organization, the relationship to the organism as a whole. The traditional
division between genetics and developmental biology was one that McClintock
could not accept, her foresight perhaps presaging the development of the
currently all-powerful science of molecular biology. But what was heretical in
McClintock's thinking was that she saw in transposition a mechanism enabling
genetic structures to respond to the needs of the organism. In 1953, two years
after McClintock presented her findings, biochemical scientists James Watson
and Francis Crick had elucidated the structure of DNA. This mechanism of
inheritance became the central dogma, one that postulated a one-directional
flow of genetic information from DNA to RNA to protein. The claim was made that
the secret of life had been unraveled. This hierarchical structure of genetic
organization, similar to organizational charts of corporate structures, became
a textbook illustration. McClintock's views, which added another layer of
complexity by suggesting that nature responded more fluidly to the needs of the
organism, did not fit into that scheme. Hence she was marginalized until
science slowly sorted through and incorporated that additional piece of the
puzzle decades later.
One of the many lessons of
McClintock's story lies in the relevance of gender not just to the questions
scientists ask but in the answers with which they content themselves.
Therefore, the influx of large numbers of women into the sciences must have the
effect not just of adding another component to the creative vision now
represented in science but of incorporating a fundamentally different view of
nature and perhaps a scientific mind more inclusive of subjectivity. Although
this could hardly be articulated by most women scientists, it is a fundamental
component of their right to be scientists. To accept anything less would have
the same demoralizing effect as being invited to sit at the men's table but
having to laugh at misogynist jokes.
Yet, if one acknowledges that the
contribution of women is vital, one must examine whether women are actually
succeeding in entering the sciences in sufficient numbers to exact change. Time
alone does not appear to have been enough to ensure this greater influx. In
1972 an education amendment, Title IX, was enacted by Congress, stating that
"No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded
from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to
discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal
financial assistance." On the
twenty-fifth anniversary of Title IX, reports acknowledge the positive effect
of the legislation on the advancement of women in many fields. In sports,
medicine, and law, the numbers of women have steadily increased.  But reports acknowledge that "Women
remain underrepresented among students and faculty in the sciences, technology and
engineering." Even legislation
removing educational barriers does not appear to have created the necessary
climate and incentive for women to succeed in the scientific arena. This
suggests that the barriers are so deeply ingrained in the academic and
corporate systems that they make progress quite difficult. As the National
Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'is of the United States has noted in a statement
on the equality of women and men, "The gains for women rest uneasily on
unchanged, often unexamined, inherited assumptions."
PRESENT BARRIERS TO ENTERING
WOMEN entering the sciences must overcome many
gender-related barriers that superimpose themselves on the normal battery of
challenges attendant on such a pursuit. These barriers are like burdens placed
on the back of a camel. The question becomes, "Which straw will break the
camel's back?" That is, at what stage of the process will girls, young
women, or older women lose interest or leave science, due not to lack of ability
or performance but to nebulous depressive influences that eventually accrue to
foster complete discouragement? As some writers have noted, it behooves any
parent to be vigilant, lest such forces divert what in a five-year-old girl was
a keen and natural interest in science into other channels less suited to the
true potentiality of that individual and less satisfactory to society as a
of the gender gap in the sciences (in the United States) was reported in a 1992
issue of Science magazine. Table I summarizes the proportion of full-time
graduate students by sex and shows that in most fields of science there are
still far fewer full-time female graduate students than there are males, with
the biological sciences showing the least difference (two in five), while in
engineering the gender gap is greatest (one in eight).
Proportion of Full-Time Graduate Students by Sex
Male Female Ratio
Mathematics 10,000 4,000 5:2
Computer Sciences 12,000 3,000 4:1
Physical Sciences 22,000 7,000 3:1
Biological Sciences 23,000 17,000 3:2
Engineering 54,000 8,000 7:1
*Data from the National Science
Foundation, "Women in Science: Data Points," Science, 255 (1992):
shows that women earn less than men at every stage of their scientific careers
and that the disparity increases at the highest levels of experience.  While the disparity of pay for men and women
with approximately two years experience is $7,000, this disparity can increase
to $16,000 at thirty-five years of experience, with women's salary increases
virtually leveling off after about twenty-five years of experience.
Salary Disparities Between Women and Men Scientists*
years of experience Average
Women Men Gender Gap
<2 $32,000 $39,000 $7,000
5_-9 $39,000 $45,000 $6,000
15-19 $46,000 $55,000 $9,000
25-29 $53,000 $62,000 $9,000
35-39 $53,000 $69,000 $16,000
*Data from the National Research
Council. "Women in Science: Data Points," Science, 255 (1992): 1376.
which reports the underemployment rates (the proportion not working or working
in part-time positions), shows that the rates arc higher for women in every
scientific field except computer science. 
These data may reflect both positive and negative treads for women. If
the figures reflect only higher unemployment of women scientists, they are
negative, but to the extent that the figures reflect a choice and availability
to women of part-time positions in the sciences (which increase their
opportunity to remain involved in their careers during child-bearing years),
they could reflect a positive trend.
Table 3 Underemployment
Rates of Women and Men in the Sciences*
Science Women Men
Physical Scientists 3.8% 1.7%
Mathematical Scientists 7.2% 2.0%
Computer specialists 2.2% 2.2%
Environmental Scientists 11.5% 5.0%
Life Scientists 9.6% 3.3%
Psychologists 7.0% 5.0%
Social Scientists 11.2% 5.3%
Data from the National Science Foundation.
"Women in Science: Data Points," Science, 255 (1992): 1376.
showing the numbers of women faculty in chemistry departments in universities
throughout the United States, is representative of many other science
disciplines.  Typically, departments having thirty to fifty male professors
will have few or no female faculty. In many cases even the few women faculty do
not have tenured status.
Table 4 The Numbers of Women Faculty in
U.S. University Chemistry Departments*
University Total Female Track Track
Utah 53 5 1 4
South Carolina 26 0 0 0
Virginia Polytech. I. 43 4 0 4
Wisconsin-Madison 44 4 4 0
San Diego State 43 2 2 0
Northwestern 30 2 0 2
Georgia 32 1 1 0
*lvan Amato, "Profile of a
Field: Chemistry-Women Have Extra Hoops to jump Through," Science, 255
The academic experience, therefore,
for a young woman entering a male-dominated science is characterized by two
general psychological barriers: (1) her relative minority status among the
student population, where she may be one of every eight students in
engineering, to one of every two and a half students in a biological sciences
programs and (2) the virtual lack of female faculty to act as role models and
mentors. Added to these factors may be attitudes and prejudices encountered
from individual faculty and colleagues, which contribute to making the
environment female-friendly or female-unfriendly.
As women progress further up the
ladder of human attainment—that is, the scientific job market or graduate
studies--the impact of male domination is likely to be more strongly felt. As
the numbers of women decrease, the increased interaction with a predominantly
male power structure in which the acceptable mode of communication is masculine
contributes to an environment increasingly unfriendly to women. An example
drawn from my own graduate school experience is that while earning three
degrees at two major universities I never had a female science professor. I had
many good professors who were willing to train women. But the fact that most
newly hired faculty were young, white, and male, reinforced the
women-unfriendly environment. As a female, I began unconsciously to internalize
a message that women may be allowed to pursue their graduate studies but that
they were not good enough to be professors.
Addressing the environment in the culture of engineering,
writer Lael Parrott says that "women who pursue engineering are
marginalized by a professional culture that, due to the predominance of men in
the work--place, continues to be fundamentally masculine." The result is
that, in the male-dominated scientific culture, "a male style of
interaction prevails. Women fail to understand the unwritten rules of conduct
and as a result, fail to effectively promote their strengths."
The difference in language and
communication patterns between men and women can be a contributing source of
stress. Only one style, the male, may seem acceptable. In research meetings and
classes, I learned to take great care when speaking, not to seem out of place
in the male-dominated environment. An exchange with one of my professors that
took place during my Master's defense is instructive. When I attempted to
verbalize the interconnectedness of several plant hormones in affecting plant
anatomy by saying, "I have a feeling that such and such is occurring
inside this plant because . . . ," one of my professors interrupted me to
ask, "What do you mean 'I have a feeling?' There is no room for feelings
in science, only facts!" The hormone balance theory I was attempting to
verbalize was more subjective and complex than a single hormone
cause-and-effect relationship but seemed intuitively appropriate to the case
and no less plausible (to my mind) an explanation of the observed phenomenon.
University of Pittsburgh professor
Constance Carroll, in an essay about black women in higher education, talks
about communication differences between women and men and the intense feeling
of isolation minority and women faculty experience:
I never come in contact with
another Black woman professor or administrator in my day-to-day activities.
This seems to be similar for most of the Black women in similar positions.
There is no one with whom to share experiences and gain support, no one with
whom to identify, no one on whom a Black woman can model herself. It takes a
great deal of psychological strength just to get through a day, the endless
lunches and meetings in which one is always "different." The feeling is
much like the exhaustion a foreigner speaking an alien tongue feels at the end
of the day. 
Scientist Daniel Koshland, in an
editorial in Science, cites several reasons for the poor representation of
women faculty in the sciences: the "old-boy" prejudice preventing
them from getting into the positions, and a high rate of attrition during the
period between graduate school and tenure, this being an interval of intense
and unequal competitive pressure for women. At no stage in the educational
process is there an indication that the attrition is caused by lack of academic
performance. He cited, instead, lack of role models as a source of insecurity
and a decisive factor in the failure to develop the self-confidence essential
for a research investigator. 
The "old-boy" syndrome,
according to Science writer Ann Gibbons, includes many factors, such as men
feeling more comfortable working with men; entrenched attitudes that women are
not as good at science or are less committed to research due to family responsibilities;
and women not faring well because they are isolated and lack alliances with
older colleagues. 
Gibbons points out that because the
criteria for tenure are flexible, this is an area where men can easily
discriminate against women. In 1989 women held only 8 percent of the full
professorships in science and engineering, a number that does not appear to
change, despite the growing pool of female Ph.D.-level scientists. One
researcher commented that
If we're not going to disassemble
the barriers, and if we're not going to help assure the sustained participation
and performance of women in science, then you really have to question whether
increasing these numbers of women in doctoral education is going to make any
difference to the enterprise of science."
Another aspect of the psychological
battles women face may be the cultural patterns of women themselves. The
graduate school experience can be an overwhelming one for both men and women.
In many cases the system breeds workaholism and can lead to burnout. In Women's Burnout, psychology authors
Herbert J. Freudenberger and Gail North make the case that women may be even
more susceptible to workaholic burnout if they have perfectionist tendencies.
The perfectionist has an
unrealistically high standard to meet and will sacrifice important
responsibilities to meet that standard. The cost she pays may be too high for
her and may lead to gradual disenchantment with her work and a deadening of the
real person inside. Furthermore, the perfectionist's sense of identity and
self-worth is tied to how she measures up to that standard. She is constantly
on parole. Her successes she views as coincidences, but her mistakes she tends
to take as confirmation of incompetence, proof that there's a fraud lurking
Another personal episode
illustrates the heavy toll of expectations on those who are pioneers. A few
days before my preliminary examination I became obsessed with the question of
how many African-Americans had been awarded Ph.D.s in plant breeding and
genetics at my university. When I learned that I was probably going to be the
first (according to the recollection of an elderly professor), I panicked.
Suddenly, the whole weight of the race was on my shoulders. I remember entering
that exam room, with five white male professors sitting around a long narrow
table staring at me, thinking that, if I failed it would be doubly disastrous,
because I was a woman and because I was black.
CASE HISTORIES OF SOME HIGH
'Abdu'l-Bahá talks about the depressive impact of being
surrounded by a subliminal message that one is inferior: "the assumption
of superiority by man will continue to be depressing to the ambition of woman,
as if her attainment to equality was creationally impossible; woman's
aspiration toward advancement will be checked by it, and she will gradually
become hopeless." Even the
achievers, women who have done great things in science, have had to contend
with this invisible depressor. The contrasting stories of two women
scientists—those of Rosalind Franklin, a contributor to the discovery of the
structure of DNA, and Barbara McClintock, the discoverer of gene transposition,
illustrate how messages about inferiority affect persons differently.
Rosalind Franklin. The story of Rosalind Franklin is sad
and tragic.  Some feel that to this
day she has not received the recognition she deserved for being a co-discoverer
of the structure of DNA. Rosalind Franklin was born into a prominent Jewish
banking family in London and in 1941 disappointed her parents by becoming a
chemist. She was awarded several scholarships to work in a number of
laboratories under men who resented the presence of a woman. In the early
1950s, while she conducted breakthrough research in X-ray crystallography and
the molecular structure of DNA, James Watson and Francis Crick were trying to
elucidate the structure of the molecule through biochemical analysis.
Franklin's supervisor, Maurice Wilkins, turned over her findings to Watson and
Crick without her permission. With it they were able to discern the mistakes in
their model and use her findings as major supportive evidence for their work.
In 1953 Franklin became so frustrated with the treatment she was receiving that
she left her position for another research station but, because of proprietary
rights, she was forbidden to talk about or continue her previous work with DNA.
She went on to work on the structure of viruses, however, and contributed
significantly to the understanding of genetics. She was always a loner, and
since official recognition was both too little and too late, when she died of
cancer in 1958, at age thirty-seven, she was a bitter and frustrated woman. In
1962 Watson, Crick, and Wilkins were awarded the Nobel Prize for the discovery of
the structure of DNA.
Barbara McClintock's story in some ways appears to be very much in contrast to
Franklin's-not in the discrimination of the male establishment but in the
psychological portrait of the protagonist."
In 1922 McClintock received her bachelor's degree from Cornell University in
botany because the plant-breeding department would not admit women. In 1927,
after receiving her doctorate with a brilliant breakthrough in cytogenetics,
McClintock had only two options: to become a teaching assistant or to take a
faculty position at a women's college (positions that, at that time, were also
primarily teaching appointments). Though most of her colleagues acknowledged
her genius, women were barred in the 1930s from holding tenured professorships.
Because McC!intock was primarily interested in continuing her research, she
pursued neither of these options. Instead, she obtained numerous short-term
fellowships to enable her to do research in various laboratories around the country.
This created a precarious and unstable situation for her. In 1942, while her
male colleagues were safely on the tenure track at prestigious universities,
she found herself virtually unemployed. Through a male colleague's
intervention, she obtained a position at the Cold Spring Harbor botanical
facility, where the Carnegie Foundation gave her a small lab in which she
worked quietly for the next forty years. It was not until she was in her
eighties that she was accorded recognition. Since 1981 she has received
numerous awards for her discoveries, including the 1985 Nobel Prize in
Although McClintock was conscious
of her unequal opportunities, she appears never to have succumbed to
debilitating frustration and bitterness, despite her hard times. But even
though she never appeared to hold a grudge, one who studies her life is
susceptible of developing one on her behalf. Although one understands that
scientific revolutionaries are often outcasts, her situation was compounded by
gender inequality. Given the significance of her work to genetics and medicine,
one sees that prejudice can be costly to the collective well-being of humankind
and retards the solution of important problems that plague it.
In examining the effect of a
male-dominated culture on women scientists, one sees that the collective
influence can be quite strong. Rosalind Franklin became depressed by it
(perhaps hopeless) while Barbara McClintock persevered. It is important to
remember, however, that such influences act not only on outstanding individuals
but on every girl. Surveys show the impact of negative expectations on girls'
performance in math and science. Although girls' math and science performance
is similar to that of boys during early school years, girls' performance drops
markedly from puberty through high school as they become more acculturated to
society's gender expectations. 
Lack of adequate preparation in math and science in high school are
strong predictors of whether women will choose or succeed in science in college.
In the same passage in which
'Abdu'l-Bahá talks about the depressive influence of male superiority on
women's ambitions and progress, He also suggests a solution: "we must
declare that her [woman's] capacity is equal, even greater than man's. This
will inspire her with hope and ambition, and her susceptibilities for
advancement will continually increase." In other words, all must recognize
that potential precedes actuality and take this as an article of faith. To
combat feelings of inferiority Abdu'l-Bahá urged women and men to recognize
unequivocally that the relative backwardness of women (historically) stems from
two simple causes: "opportunity and education." This demystifies the question of why women
have not contributed to civilization the same quantity of discoveries, arts,
and sciences as men. No creational inferiority prevented her-only lack of
education, opportunity, and encouragement. Emphasizing this point relieves
women of the burden of emotional self-doubt that contributes to the current
psychological barriers in entering the sciences.
Along with 'Abdu'l-Bahá's assertion
that lack of "opportunity and education" have contributed to women's
backwardness, He advocated that the same curriculum of education, including the
sciences and arts, be adopted for boys and girls to promote "unity of the
sexes." Furthermore, He enjoins women to prove by their accomplishments in
the arts and sciences that their abilities and powers have "merely been
DIFFICULTY IN BALANCING SCIENTIFIC CAREERS AND FAMILY
A PARTICULARLY difficult double standard surrounds the
subject of women in science. In effect, the male-dominated culture requires
that women who are serious about science prove it by abdicating the option of motherhood
in favor of serious science. This is an especially onerous double standard, as
science does not require men to give up fatherhood to be good scientists. I
know an assistant professor who hid her pregnancy until the fifth month,
wearing tight and uncomfortable clothing, until the day after her tenure
hearing. It was her third pregnancy in five years (one of which had resulted in
a miscarriage), and, despite her solid work record, she feared knowledge of the
pregnancy would compromise her chances of winning tenure.
By far the
most profound psychological battle women face in the quest to become scientists
is the question of how to balance scientific careers and family
responsibilities. The current structure of the scientific labor market and
academic environment is so inhospitable to the biological and psychological
responsibilities of motherhood that it provides a severe deterrent to women's
progress in these arenas. According to Resource writer Lael Parrot,
"recent surveys confirm that professional women still maintain the bulk of
child-rearing responsibilities in the home."
Elizabeth Culotha, contributing
editor to Science magazine, notes
that for corporate women scientists and engineers having children is one of the
pivotal issues that separate men's and women's career experiences: "In the
culture of industrial research, the trouble frequently starts with
pregnancy…many [women] felt they faced a no-win situation: Have a baby before
promotion—and possibly lose the promotion—or have the baby afterward and manage
a newborn plus heavier job responsibilities." Hiding a
pregnancy for seven and a half months, she reports, was one
woman's way of dealing with an upcoming promotion.
Koshland, in an editorial in Science, notes that, for many women, childbearing
coincides with a ticking tenure clock, creating overwhelming pressure, with no
allowance made by the system for the fact that women not only bear the children
but are also the primary organizers of their upbringing. He cites this
obstacle, confronted before tenure, as sufficient to discourage a significant
number of talented women scientists. 
Bernadine Healy, the director of the National Institutes of Health in
…the punishments come to women who
have their children while in their 20s, at least among women in science . . . .
A study of 460 National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellows showed that
women who had their children during their postdoctoral years did not attain as
high academic and leadership positions as other women and men...women in
science eventually hit either the "mommy track" or a "glass
Many of the writings of
'Abdu'l-Bahá involve the education of children and a mother's responsibilities,
addressing simultaneously the exalted position of motherhood and the
seriousness of the responsibility: "The mother is the first teacher of the
child. For children, at the beginning of life, are fresh and tender as a young
twig, and can be trained in any fashion you desire . . . it is she who
establisheth the character and conduct of the child." In another passage
He says that "to train the character of humankind is one of the weightiest
commandments of God, and the influence of such training is the same as that
which the sun exerteth over tree and fruit." Elsewhere He states that
"This is a great and important affair and a high and exalted position, and
it is not allowable to slacken therein at all."
Hence it is clear why it is so
difficult for women to take the responsibility of child rearing lightly. Educating
their children well is for many women the central issue of their lives. This
takes effort, study, reflection, and an enormous commitment of time. Many women
do not lightly entrust this task to surrogates, to anyone other than
themselves. Some young women scientists who are Bahá'is have taken these
injunctions so seriously that they quit their professions during early
child-rearing years. 'Where there is a choice, monetarily, they have chosen to
stay home and raise their children themselves. But because the sciences often
do not value retaining the input of these women on any basis other than full
time, their careers suffer severely. 
They are forced to watch their professional gains slowly erode by the
enforced isolation from their professions, which is a result of not being able
to "keep one's hand in," even in a minimal capacity.
One of the factors contributing to
the choice many women scientists make about staying home and rearing their
children is that often "With every professional [married] woman comes a
professional man. It is extremely rare to have a house husband." In
contrast, another writer asserts, "behind almost every successful, senior
professional man is an extremely helpful wife who does not necessarily have her
own full-time position."
According to the Universal House of
Justice, even though the primary responsibility for early child development is
assigned to mothers (while primary responsibility for bread-winning is assigned
to fathers), these roles are not absolute and can be adjusted (or even
reversed) to suit individual family needs. This would, theoretically, make
it possible for families with women scientists to distribute these
responsibilities in a manner that enables women to maintain involvement in
their scientific careers, assuming the establishment provides such
opportunities (that is, flextime, part-time appointments, and so on). Advocates
suggest that "both men and women would benefit from implementing family
policies that recognize the need to share child-rearing."
Nevertheless, the reality is that
it is women who undergo nine months of pregnancy and who breast-feed the child.
Moreover, the natural first orientation of the infant is toward its mother.
These realities strongly contribute to the fact that it is more often women who
take a hiatus from their career. Compounding these considerations is the fact
that multiple pregnancies increase the number of stops and starts even for
women who have relatively short child-related interruptions to a scientific
The current academic and corporate
scientific environments provide little opportunity for arrangements that are
conducive to balanced, family-oriented career development. Many experts agree that this seriously contributes
to the fact that the percentage of women working in the sciences is not rising
significantly, despite the higher numbers of women educated in the
sciences. The overwhelming stress of reconciling child-related concerns and
the unbending scientific work environment has led to the phenomenon known as
the "leaking pipeline," wherein women are being lost to the sciences
due to a structure that refuses to allow for the intrinsic needs of women
participants. For example, in the field of neuroscience, which has one of the
highest numbers of women, 45 percent of those entering graduate programs are
women, 38 percent of the doctorates are awarded to women, and 33 percent of the
post-doctoral candidates are women. But only 27 percent of the jobs go to women
(and only one-third of these are tenure-track jobs). "When women are
completing postdocs and deciding whether to take another postdoc, apply for a
tenure-track job, or settle for a non-tenure-track position," writer
Marcia Barinaga reports one neuroscientist as saying, "That's the time when
your self-confidence faces the biggest challenge, . . . that challenge is
compounded by the fact that combining the tenure track with family life is not
for the faint-of-heart….’” A second one noted, "The women who have made it
and are trying to do it all are leading crazy lives,…that's scary [for young
women] to look at."
The painful fact is that if the
choice is made to take a hiatus from a scientific career, the consequences can
be enormous. The loss of self-confidence arising from isolation, the loss of
preparedness in rapidly advancing sciences, the stigma associated with the
hiatus, and the barriers to reentry may result in a permanent leave of absence
and a redirecting of career aspirations. That is to say, women will often
search out options more compatible with their total persona.
The maxim that "the life of a
woman is different from the life of a man," though simple, has much
relevance here. One begins to see, for example, that asking women scientists to
attain tenure in five years, while simultaneously undergoing one or two
pregnancies, is unworkable and unjust. Women cannot be expected merely to fit
into the established professional world of men and still discharge family
responsibilities. This becomes excruciatingly demanding on women, and it is, in
fact, just another form of oppression, not emancipation. Burnout is often the
price one pays for trying to live up to a standard that is not commensurate
with one's real self, a standard that others have created for one. Therefore,
it is imperative for women to seek out their own standard, their own pace,
their own alternatives to career development and balancing the requirements of
motherhood. They must not let the male establishment, even one that believes
itself enlightened, do this for them. But this is only a first step in
resolving this difficult issue, and it is the only one over which women have
even partial control.
'Abdu'l-Bahá's statements on the education of children are
not meant to oppress women further, to keep them barefoot, pregnant, and in the
kitchen. Rather, they assert that women scientists have two major ways in which
to attack the issue of world progress and peace: to aid in the development of
the world through their professions and to help train the character of
humankind through the education of their children, a role He compares to the
influence of the sun in the greening of the planet. Taken together with His
statements on the need for women to rise to the highest degree in all arenas of
endeavor, they make it imperative that changes be made in the male-dominated
system of science to allow women to fulfill these double roles. However, it is
not that women must be scientists and
mothers too; but they must have the right to do so, if they so wish. This right
is intrinsic to their identity as women; and the system of science must
accommodate this right just as it must all other human rights.
IN Reflections on
Gender and Science, physicist Evelyn Fox Keller, who is a professor of
science, technology, and society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
makes the case that, contrary to general belief, the priorities of science and,
therefore, the questions investigated by scientists, have not been determined
completely impartially. They reflect, rather, the subset of the population
historically practicing science--that is, primarily white males. Furthermore,
she asserts that
there is a
…deeply rooted popular mythology
that casts objectivity, reason, and mind as male, and subjectivity, feeling,
and nature as female. In this division of emotional and intellectual labor
women have been the guarantors and protectors of the personal, the emotional,
the particular, whereas science--the province par excellence of the impersonal,
the rational, and the general has been the preserve of men.
The consequence of
such a division is not simply the exclusion of women from the practice of
science. That exclusion itself is a symptom of a wider and deeper rift between
feminine and masculine, subjective and objective, indeed between love and
power--a rending of the human fabric. . .. 75
According to Bahá'í principles, as
in all other arenas (political, social, economic), the driving impetus behind
the current scientific system must be changed to reflect a
"feminization" of humanity's thinking. A significant body of
literature has been published during the past decade focusing on feminist
approaches to science, reflecting on the impact of gender on science and
questioning the assumptions underlying science, that, if it continues to grow,
portends an approaching scientific revolution.76
A statement made by the Bahá'i
International Community in The Prosperity
of Humankind makes clear the imperative necessity for such a scientific
A central challenge, therefore--and
an enormous one--is the expansion of scientific and technological activity….
Development strategy . . . must take as a major goal the task of making it
possible for all of the earth's inhabitants to approach on an equal basis the
processes of science and technology which are their common birth-right.77
But even beyond the matter of
women's equal access is that of reorienting science's values. According to
social critic Lewis Mumford:
Nothing less than a profound
re-orientation of our vaunted technological "way of life "will save
this planet from becoming a lifeless desert . . .. For its effective salvation
mankind will need to undergo something like a spontaneous religious conversion;
one that will replace the mechanical world picture with an organic manifestation
of life, the precedence it now gives to its machines and computers….78
What is needed to effect change is
a different kind of orientation, the kind of orientation 'Abdu'l-Bahá invoked.
Is it possible that the interplay of the qualities in which Abdu'l-Bahá says
women currently excel (empathy, intuition, philanthropy, concern for the
"needy and suffering," and a focus on that which is most needful to
humanity) and their relative freedom from a need to preserve the status quo or
to measure their own self-worth by those standards, would engender in women, at
this time, the greater "moral courage" needed to effect a
reorientation of science's priorities? A relative newcomer, with a "fresh
perspective," so to speak? Yes, but only if that newcomer knows what
science is about and honors its own gifts, rather than losing them. And only if
that scientific community to which those gifts are offered embraces them and
seeks to transform itself. Anything less will produce a delay in the needed
transformation. It is clear, however, from the current condition of the world
that compassion and a concern for the needs of the suffering are paramount when
developing new scientific priorities and devising new technologies.
If peace is urgent, and the
contribution of women to science is a critical ingredient in establishing
peace, an acceleration in women's practice of science is also urgent. Rather
than the predominantly male scientific community's continuing to structure work
in such a way that most women are excluded from pursuing careers, humanity in
general and the scientific community in particular must facilitate an increase
in the number of women in scientific endeavors. The barriers to women's
participation must be broken down quickly and thoroughly. Because men are the
dominant force in the world of science, it must be done primarily by men. For
equality to happen, men must take ownership of the principle. If the scientific
arena can transform itself to welcome women's participation as quickly as women
develop themselves to fulfill their role, a synergy could ensue that would
produce unprecedented change at unprecedented rates. The mind can hardly
conceive of the possibilities for transformation in the material fortunes of
"It is well established in history,"
'Abdu'l-Bahá asserts, "that where woman has not participated in human
affairs the outcomes have never attained a state of completion and
perfection."79 Here is intimation that science without the benefit of
women participants provides an incomplete picture. This is amply illustrated in
the arena of primatological studies, where, before empathy was made a
legitimate part of scientific inquiry, little insight had been obtained. It is
also illustrated in the case of genetic research where the intuitive approach,
"the feeling for the organism," led to a breakthrough that caused a
shift in the central paradigm. But, most of all, by this statement 'Abdu'l-Bahá
creates a dynamic vision of what lies in store for humankind when women come to
participate fully in human affairs: "completion and perfection."
1. The Universal House of Justice, The Promise of World Peace: To the Peoples of the World (Wilmette,
Ill.: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1985) 26-27.
2. Bahá'u'lláh says, "The well-being of mankind, its
peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly
established" (Gleanings from the
Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, trans. Shoghi Effendi, 1st ed. [Wilmette, Ill.:
Bahá'i Publishing Trust, 1983] 286). He also says that "The light of men
is Justice" and that "The purpose of justice is the appearance of
unity among men" (Tablets of
Bahá'u'lláh revealed after the Kitab-i-Aqdas, comp. Research Department of
the Universal House of justice, trans. Habib Taherzadeh et al., 1st ps. ed. [Wilmette,
Ill.: Bahá'i Publishing Trust, 1988, 166-67).
3. 'Abdu'l-Bahá, The
Promulgation of Universal Peace: Talks Delivered by Abdu'l-Bahá during His
Visit to the United States and Canada in 1912, comp. Howard MacNutt, 2d. ed. (Wilmette,
Ill.: Bahá'i Publishing Trust, 1982) 175.
4. 'Abdu'l-Bah, Promulgation
5. Abdu'l-Bahá, Promulgation
6. The Universal House of Justice, Promise of World Peace 27; Abdu'l-Bahá, in Women: Extracts from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, Abdu'l-Bahá, Shoghi
Effendi and the Universal House of Justice, comp. Research Department of
the Universal House of Justice (Thornhill, Ontario: Bahá'i Canada Publications,
1986) no. 41.
7. United Nations, 1980, quoted in Joni Seager and Ann
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8. Seager and Olson, Women
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9. Joni Seager, The
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10. Margaret Snyder, quoted in Seager and Olson, Women in the World 7.
11. CERES: The FAO
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15. 'Abdu'l-Bahá, in Bahá'u'llah, Abdu'l-Bahá, Shoghi
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17. 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Promulgation
18. Ethlie Ann Vare and Greg Ptacek, "Eleanor Ormerod,"
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20. Joe Alper, "Science Education; The Pipeline Is
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22. 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Promulgation
23. Webster's New
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27. Morell, "Called 'Trimates," Science, 260 (1993):423.
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Goodall, Through a Window, My Thirty
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complete treatment of Diane Fossey's work, see Parley Mowat, Woman in the Mists: The Story of Diane
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30. Abdu'l-Bahá, Abdu'1-Baha
in London 103.
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al. (Cambridge: Harvard UP, Belkriap Press, 1980) 138-41. For a more complete
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32. Brooks, "Rachel Carson," Notable American Women 140.
33. Brooks, "Rachel Carson," Notable American Women 140.
34. 'Abdu'l-Bahá., Paris
35. Abdu'l-Bahá, Some
Answered Questions, comp. and trans. Laura Clifford Barney, 1st ed.
(Wilmette, Ill.: Baha’i Publishing Trust, 1984) 157, 158.
36. See Evelyn Fox Keller, A Feeling for the Organism: The Life and Work of Barbara McClintock (New
York: Freeman, 1983).
37. Evelyn Fox Keller, 'A World of Difference," Reflections on Gender and Science (New
Haven: Yale UP, 1985) 158-76.
38. Keller, 'World of Difference," Reflections on Gender and Science 162.
39. Keller, "World of Difference," Reflections on Gender and Science 165.
40. Keller, "World of Difference," Reflections on Gender and Science 164;
Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings
of Abdu'l-Bahá, comp. Research Department of the Universal House of
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41. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C.
Section 1681, in National Coalition for
Women and Girls in Education, "Title IX at 25, Report Card on Gender
42. Education Development Center, "Pacts on Title IX
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43. Education Development Center, Inc., "Report Card on
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44. National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United
States, Two Wings of a Bird: The Equality
of Women and Men (Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá'i Publishing Trust, 1997) 2.
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Leaking Women All the Way Along," Science,
260 (1993): 409, and Pam Penfold, "Wanted: Women Scientists," Summit (Spring 1991): 21-23.
46. Data from the National Science Foundation, "Women
in Science: Data Points," Science,
255 (1992): 1376.
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Science: Data Points," Science,
255 (1992): 1376.
48. Data from the National Science Foundation. "Women
in Science: Data Points," Science,
255 (1992): 1376.
49. Ivan Amato, "Profile of a Field: Chemistry—Women
Have Extra Hoops to Jump Through," Science,
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50. Lael Parrot, "Women and the Culture of
Engineering," Resource (Jan.
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of the Black Woman in Higher Education," in All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, But Some of Us Are
Brave: Black Women’s Studies, ed. Gloria T. Scott et al. (New York:
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52, Daniel Koshland, "Women in Science," Science, 239 0988): 1473.
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54. Gibbons, "Key Issue: Tenure," Science, 255(1992): 1386.
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56, 'Abdu'l-Bahd, Promulgation
57. Vare arid Pracek, "Rosalind Franklin," Mothers of Invention, 214-16. See also
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58. See Keller, A
Feeling For the Organism.
59. Jennifer Nagorka, "Problem in Science: Too Few
Women," Miami Herald (March 10,
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Becoming Scientists," Scientist
(Mar. 5, 1990): 17, and Alper, "Science Education: The Pipeline Is Leaking
Women All the Way Along," Science,
260 (1993): 409.
61. 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Promulgation
62. Abdu'1-Bahá, Promulgation,
63. Parrot, "Women and the Culture of Engineering, Resource (Jan, 1998): 7.
64. Elizabeth Culotha, "Work and Family: Still a
Two-Way Stretch, Science, 260 (1993):
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66. Bernadine Healy, "Women in Science: From Panes to
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the Universal House of Justice 1963.-l99O, vol. 1 (Australia: Bahá’í
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68. For an expanded treatment on the impact of current
corporate and legal structures on motherhood and equality. See Martha Leach
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69. Marcia Barinaga. "Profile of a Field:
Neuroscience—The Pipeline Is Leaking," Science,
255(1992): 1366-67; Ann Gibbons, "Key Issue: Two Career Science
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1984, in Bahá'u'lláh , 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Shoghi Effendi, and the Universal House of
Justice, Women, no. 74; for a more
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see Constance M. Chen, "The New Family: The Role of the Father, The Role
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71. Parrot, "Women and the Culture of Engineering."
Science, 260 (1993): 6-8.
72. See Amato, "Profile of a Field: Chemistry—Women
Have Extra Hoops to Jump Through," Science,
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73. Parrot, "Women and the Culture of
Engineering," Science, 260
74. Barinaga, "Profile of a Field: Neuroscience—The
Pipeline Is Leaking," Science,
255 (1992): 1366-67.
75, Keller, Reflections
on Gender and Science 7.
76. See Ruth Bleier, ed., Feminist Approaches to Science (New York: Pergamon, 1986); Ruth
Bleier, Science and Gender: A Critique of
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78. Lewis Mumford, The
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79. 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Promulgation