U.S. biochemist Frances Arnold has become the fifth woman in history to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, but female scientists say there’s still a long way to go to bridge the gender gap in the field.
This week, two women were recognized for their contribution to science. Canada’s Donna Strickland was awarded the Nobel Physics Prize and within just 24 hours, Arnold was honored for her distribution to the understanding of enzyme evolution.
Physics Professor Jess Wade at London’s Imperial College told AFP, “It is an honor to be working in science at the same time as such incredible and inspirational women. It feels like the world is waking up to the ingenuity of women scientists.”
However, gender discrimination and the considerable pay gap within the white walls of the laboratory still pose a threat to the next generation of female science experts.
"Women starting out in physics in college already notice they are being treated differently than men, and for women of color it is even worse," said Yale University Physics Professor Meg Urry.
"But I have seen other women consistently underestimated, undervalued, underappreciated, underpaid, and I suspect the same has happened to me," Urry said.
"Things are much better than they were decades ago, but we still have a long way to go,” Urry said.
Between 1901 and 2017, only 48 women were awarded Nobel Prizes compared to the 892 male winners. According to Jennifer Curtis, a physics associate at Georgia Institute of Technology, it was only over the last 40 years that science began welcoming women.
Nobel Prize winner, Arnold, told the National Science and Technology Medals Foundation, said that when she began her studies towards unraveling the secrets of genes and enzymes, “some people looked down their noses at it.”
“They might say ‘It’s not science' or that ‘Gentlemen don’t do random mutagenesis.’ But I’m not a scientist, and I’m not a gentleman, so it didn’t bother me at all. I laughed all the way to the bank, because it works,” the 62-year-old American professor of chemical engineering, bioengineering, and biochemistry said.