All this time during my research on gender equality in science, I have come across so many different views and opinions. Endless discussions about why there aren’t more women in the various scientific fields, how society affects this and what it needs to be done. So many reasons and ideas for a change.
What occurs to me more the last few days is the view of themselves that some of the women, that are already in scientific environments, have. It seems that they treat themselves as ‘special’, even though they ask not to be treated as ‘special’ by the others. They want equality. They want to be the same as their male colleagues. However, they already have put the ‘special’ tag on themselves, probably because it seems so unusual for women to want to be scientists. This attitude though makes me wonder if it’s a likely reason for the ‘different’ behaviour towards them from the male scientific population. Or could it be a self-defence attitude? Or even, is it a way to explain the whole gender equality matter in science?
But what is ‘special’? What does it mean for women and what for men? Let’s start with the male perspective. So far in my research, some men believe that women in their workplace (mostly scientific environments) are treated ‘specially’. Many times the word ‘specially’ is replaced by the word ‘differently’, which I believe is their definition of the word ‘specially’. Now, if I try to really define the word ‘differently’, I can come up with various ways to do so. Sometimes, it’s ‘nicely’ and ‘politely’, and sometimes it just means in a vaguely ‘different’ way, not necessarily bad. Few times, it means that women have advantages because of them being women. However, neither ‘specially’ or ‘differently’ is used when men want to describe an attitude as negatively discriminating towards women.
Some women, on the other hand, tend to call themselves ‘special’, usually when they want to emphasize the fact that they are rare in the STEM environments. They think that their choice to become scientists and stick to science, research or academia makes them unusual and unique. They feel that they are ‘different’ from the other women, whatever that means.. But when it comes to gender equality matters, they want to be treated equally and in the same way as the rest of the people, not as something ‘special’ or ‘different’, whatever that means..
So, I can’t help but wonder: are we ‘special’? Are women in STEM ‘special’, and what does this mean? And if yes, do ‘special’ people need ‘special’ requirements? Or shall we treat them in a way that in the end they will gradually and naturally integrate into the scientific world? Does the image of being ‘special’ make women unappealing to the others and does it push the others to behave ‘differently’? What if we remove the words ‘special’ and ‘different’ from our vocabulary when it comes to gender equality matters?