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7 Reasons Why Women Are Invisible in Science

Social Myths

The patriarchal system has always defined the place and role of a woman leading to the perpetuation of the following myths:

  • Women are emotional; technology is strictly logical. They don’t go together.
  • Men are good at math and machines; women have no clue.
  • Men are providers; women, nurturers.
  • Technical women are unattractive, arrogant and abnormal.
  • Women can’t do it because they are made that way – the divine/evolution argument.

Research exploring these myths is collecting dust in various organizations worldwide.

Anne Fausto-Sterling, in “Myths of Gender” describes studies analyzing adult brain differences concluding that verbal ability, visual-spatial perception, and math ability have nothing to do with gender.

However, many males accept myths readily. Njin-Tsoe Chen, project leader in the Dutch company Schuitema, observes, “To some extent it’s society, but evolution also plays a role. Men and women are different.”

A survey conducted by AltaVista found the men-are-better-in-technology myth thriving on the Internet: 80 percent of men claimed they are better surfers than their female partners.

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When a woman shatters these myths and succeeds in the technical field, she is labeled a honchess, bitch, feminist or said to have slept her way through to the top.

Instead of being accepted for their accomplishments, successful women are questioned as to how they became successful.


Social myths perpetuate stereotypes that lead to conditioning. Society pressures women to look and behave in certain ways.

Kate Millet, writer, and educator, said, “Many women do not recognize themselves as discriminated against; no better proof could be found of the totality of their conditioning.”

It starts early when parenting is done using stereotypes: girls like dolls, boys like cars.

“Looking through thousands of photographs weekly, women are depicted 95% of the time as ‘beginners’ with males standing behind them, pointing at the computer screen as if to say, ‘Okay, now you click here.’ It’s indicative of a male mentality that women don’t get it,” says Diana Bouchard, graphic artist, Canada.

Young girls see this and assume technology is not for them. There’s much discussion about the social impact of the media’s depiction of women’s bodies, but almost none about the media’s impact on her career and educational aspirations.

In an Internet survey, I conducted in August 2002 on Systers, the Global Network for Women in IT, over 2,557 women working in technical fields were polled from Europe, North America, and Australia.

56% of the women stated that they had never been able to wear a skirt to any event of a job that they retained as a tech industry peer as they were afraid of being perceived as unprofessional.

70% said using plain glasses, little or no make-up and a tight hair bun help them if they want their work to be taken seriously especially during job interviews.

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About Deepa Kandaswamy
Deepa Kandaswamy is an award winning writer, political analyst and engineer based in India. Her articles have been published in six continents and some of her writing credits include PC Plus (UK), Middle East Policy (US), Christian Science Monitor, Ms., Herizons (Canada), Khaleej Times (UAE), Film Ink (Australia), The Hindu (India), and Gurlz (India). She can be contacted by e-mailing to [email protected].