At this point in scientific history, diversity was scarce. Women in the field of biology, and science in general, were few and far between. The number of well-known female scientists that were active during Rosalind Franklin’s lifetime could be compared to the number of fingers found on two hands; although small in numbers, these women made huge contributions to the generalized field of science (Byers, 2001). This lack of diversity was largely due to the trends of the time. “The trend to shift many more women in paid work into the textile and clothing industries started before the war ended, and this continued” (Stevens, 1996, ¶2). At this point in history, women were not encouraged to go to school and get an educational degree; they were not encouraged to pioneer technological advance. Women were “supposed” to clock in, day after day, and utilize more common female technologies such as sewing machines and spinning wheels. Franklin, however, was granted access to an abundance of technologies that most women of her time could but fathom.

©1996-2008 Wisconsin Historical Society

Due to the unquestionable influence of Rosalind Franklin, we would like to believe that the number of women in the field of science has increased substantially. However, this is not the case. Although the numbers have increased, there is still an “imbalance of men versus women in science and engineering, particularly in universities” (Byko, 2005, ¶5). The numbers have gone up at a much more gradual pace than one would anticipate. This is largely due to how women are still perceived as lacking in competency within the field. This pessimism towards women in the scientific industry was summed up in a speech given by Lawrence Summers, the president of Harvard University, when he said: “that women, unlike men, were reluctant to commit to an 80-hour work week; that women had less aptitude for science and math than men” (Byko, 2005, ¶5). He later apologized for this inappropriate and truly sexist remark in a later speech; but if the president of such an academically prestigious institution can degrade women so easily, it must truly be difficult for women to even consider careers within the realm. Remarks such as these present numerous challenges to a woman with aspirations in the scientific field; many of which are not worth coping with. Andrea Hodge, a research scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, elaborates on these potential deterrents saying “Many are examples of challenges, from subtle assumptions made by individuals to systemic difficulties imposed by institutions, that are thought to be deterring capable women from careers in the sciences” (Byko, 2005, ¶4). She is one of many women, in scientific careers, that feel this way.

Fotos earch, LLCRosalind Franklin had profound influence on modern science despite all of the above mentioned challenges; she truly triumphed in the face of adversity. Today, billions of dollars are spent annually on genetic research. She laid the foundation for many of today’s cures for genetic disorders. We have learned vast amounts as a culture about DNA and X-ray diffraction since the days of Dr. Franklin and none of this could be done without first understanding the basic structure of the molecule. At the time, it was almost like a race for researchers to unlock the secrets of Deoxyribonucleic Acid. None of the researchers in the male-dominated field of the time, would have ever expected to be outwitted by the woman they thought “had less aptitude” or was “lacking competency.” Franklin not only proved the masses wrong about initial theories regarding DNA’s structure, she proved them wrong about women as an intelligence. Although the field still has a gender imbalance, she truly paved the way for the many women of today that are ready to rise above the deterrents and stare adversity in the face.

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