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In societies where women are responsible for local agriculture, animal husbandry, and forestry, they develop repositories of knowledge about their environment that is continually tested and revised as the environmental and social conditions of their work change.
Some are perfectly legitimate in that scientists wanted to make certain that women's reproductive systems were not damaged by drugs with unknown effects. Women, too, regularly take aspirin and other medicines, yet many of these drugs have not been tested on women.
Here we enter the complex realm of culture and politics.
Despite the roadblocks, women have made headway, if unevenly, as they enter the fields of science and technology.
Greater opportunity in these fields has allowed more women to share good wages, interesting work, and high social status associated with these occupations.
Moreover, these days the presence of significant numbers of women in a field often increases its legitimacy and the value of its work in the public perception.
For example, research that results in medical recommendations concerning women's health issues is more likely to be perceived as objective when it comes from institutions in which women have had a visible role in designing and supervising research projects.For example, it has been commonly assumed that women's bodies, for the purpose of scientific research, are not as representative of the species as are men's.Recall all of those illustrations in anatomy and physiology texts, where women's bodies appear only in the section on reproductive systems.Health sciences are not the only area to benefit from the enhanced role of women.Including women in the selection and supervision of projects increases the perceived legitimacy of the research results and, sometimes, the actual objectivity and effectiveness of research projects.Just as Marie Curie's achievements excited the imaginations of women around the world, so, too, are women today inspired by the successes of women scientists, mathematicians, and engineers.Thus, in those cases where science and technology institutions have made it possible for women to advance, they have provided a model for other fields.The entrance of women into such professions enables the sciences to take at least some credit for increasing social justice and for providing an example of what is possible far beyond the borders of scientific and technological institutions themselves.Advancing scientific careers for women has led to other benefits for science, the most obvious being an enlarged pool of smart, well-trained, highly motivated individuals from which to staff its projects.What underlying assumptions and processes had led to the noticeable underrepresentation of women scientists and engineers, and what was responsible for their even lower numbers at higher levels in scientific and technological institutions?How, specifically, did the cultures and practices of scientific institutions contribute to the limited attention to and lack of funding for women's expressed concerns, including scientific research in the areas of reproduction, health, work, and lingering social inequalities?