The 2016 US presidential election is over, and as it has many other women and scientists, it has left me shaken. I will never forget what it was like to watch it happen: sheer disbelief. I didn’t understand: Why would people prefer a president who doesn’t accept women as equals? Will people ever accept that a woman can be leader of the United States? I felt lost. I felt violated. I mourned—not because the president will be from “that” party or because the female candidate didn't win; I was devastated because the new president contradicts all the ideals for which we have been fighting for so long: that women have equal worth and that we can be whoever and whatever we want to be.
Political decisions directly and indirectly affect women’s rights. As with any political issue, some politicians support these issues. Some don’t. As members of a democracy, it’s important to remember that your vote is your voice, and if we, as educated members of society, want our representatives to support a specific policy or issue, we have to vote and we have to find a way to voice our concerns.
Despite there being no scientific evidence that gender determines intelligence or capability(1), it’s still a societal norm that women are not equal to men. Earlier this year, an analysis by Scientific American indicated that women in STEM fields make 11% less than their male counterparts, with some women paid only 56% of the salary for a man in the same position(2). Many women are afraid that by raising the topic of inequality, they will be seen as rude or aggressive, but a big part of fighting the bias against women is discussing these issues even when we would feel uncomfortable (3, 4, 5). As professional women, we have to speak up and be more open about the sexism and misogyny that occurs in the workplace because of gender or appearance. Women work equally hard and long to gain our education and experience, and all of that insight and expertise is lost when society cannot overcome prejudice.
It may be necessary to start the dialogue with younger generations. Professional women are judged by their looks: if a woman’s appearance corresponds to the current beauty standards, she may be considered less intelligent or incapable to take leadership positions. This double standard doesn’t exist towards men (6,7). Since a more “feminine” look and behavior are instilled into girls, but aggression and rough play are acceptable for boys, we can identify where this prejudice is first imprinted and put a stop to preconceptions that are difficult to overcome as adults.
The latest U.S. presidential election is a step back because it encourages misogynist social behavior, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t continue to believe in equality for women and find a way to achieve it. Both male and female scientists can serve as role models and speak up:
- until it is a societal norm for women to voice their opinions.
- until it is a societal norm that women can be anything they want to be.
Lidiya’s curiosity about “how the life works” led her to complete a Master’s degree in Biology and a PhD in Microbiology. Science gave her more questions than answers and after a few years as a postdoc at the National Institute of Health in Rockville, MD, USA, she decided to pursue her “first” love in writing. Not long after that, she became a mom of a wonderful girl, who is a very energetic toddler now. She loves to travel and has lived in many countries; she is still looking for a place to settle down. Lidiya is thrilled to be a part of the Scientista bloggers team, and loves being able to connect with lots of wonderful young, and already established female scientists, while writing about science, life and everything else.