Whenever we refer to the greatest scientists of the world, the names that instantly come to our minds are Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton and many others who have made remarkable discoveries and have changed our understanding of the world. But let's not forget that in this journey of science and discoveries there are many women who have made significant strides.
Be it Marie Curie who discovered radioactivity and invented a mobile X-ray unit during World War to become the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, Rosalind Franklin for her revolutionary work in discovering the double helix structure of DNA, astronomer Vera Rubin who discovered the existence of dark matter, Janaki Ammal, a botanist from India, who as India’s first female plant scientist, developed several hybrid species still grown today and Wong-Staal who was the first scientist to clone HIV and create a map of its genes... the list is endless.
To honour the achievements of these women of the past and to encourage those who are currently making a difference in the world of science so that they achieve full and equal access to participate in science and further achieve gender equality, the United Nations General Assembly declared February 11 as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science.
According to the reports by the United Nations over the past 15 years, though the global community has made a lot of effort in inspiring and engaging women and girls in science, yet women and girls continue to be excluded from participating fully in science. At present, less than 30 percent of researchers worldwide are women.This year the theme is 'Women scientists at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19'.
According to the UN, "The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has clearly demonstrated the critical role of women researchers in different stages of the fight against COVID-19, from advancing the knowledge on the virus, to developing techniques for testing, and finally to creating the vaccine against the virus.
"At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic also had a significant negative impact on women scientists, particularly affecting those at the early stages of their career, and thus contributing to widening the existing gender gap in science, and revealing the gender disparities in the scientific system, which need to be addressed by new policies, initiatives and mechanisms to support women and girls in science.
"Against this backdrop, this year’s celebration of the Day will address the theme “Women Scientists at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19” and will gather together experts working in fields related to the pandemic from different parts of the world."
In Oman there are many women who are finding their stance in science and are excelling as well. A considerable number of female graduates are majoring in sciences, such as chemistry, biological technology and environmental biology.