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Sandra Harding is professor of education and women's studies at UCLA, where she also directs the Center for the Study of Women.She has lectured at over 200 universities around the world, and authored or edited 10 books and special journal issues.Any aspect of human life where women and men are assigned different roles—whether nature or culture makes the assignment—is one in which gender-based knowledge will develop.
Her latest publication is, (Indiana University Press, Bloomington, IN, 1998).
Three decades ago women's movements around the globe were rigorously questioning the exclusion of women, their interests, and visions of the good life, from policy debates, including those of science.
In this context it is worth pointing out that so-called women's health issues are not just about women's bodies.
As long as women continue to be responsible for the daily maintenance of households and their family's health, women's health issues will include everyone's health issues.
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.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.These repositories of knowledge are proving increasingly valuable in the Third World as conventional Western prescriptions for development are being reevaluated.Whatever the social, political, or psychological benefits that men may have gained by discriminating against women in the past, the intellectual loss has never been justified.Invoking gender criteria when recruiting and advancing the best scientists and engineers works against their interests.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.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.There are instances when the scientific and technological expertise of the North can learn from the time-tested practices of other cultures for sustainable development.Women's greater participation in the design of scientific projects can also improve the care and sensitivity with which existing methods are practiced.