On June 16th the US Treasury Department announced for the first time in over 100 years that a woman will be on paper money. A team of UC Davis scientists have launched a campaign to put the only woman to single-handily win a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine – Barbara McClintock.
1. McClintock was a prolific scientist
Over the course of her 60+ year career, McClintock established many cornerstones of genetics. She was one of the most prolific researchers in the field of genetics from the 1920s to 1950s. Without a doubt, she was also the most insightful researcher in the history of genetics. She did all of this during a time when people did not know what “DNA” did and their concept of “genes” was in its infancy. McClintock discovered that genes are on chromosomes and that chromosomes are fluid structures in the cell that can be re-arranged, crossed over to exchange material, and that some genes can “jump”.
2. Show that America values science
The $1, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100 bills have a theme: old male politicians. A nation’s values is represented by the images people see every day on their money. Breaking from the trend would show another value many of us hold – creating amazing science. The United States has sent a man to the moon, unlocked the atom, and decoded the human genome but has yet to show a scientist on its currency. America has contributed so much to science that we often forget to acknowledge the individuals who spend their lives devoted to answering the questions of human-kind and helping to make people’s lives better.
For every $1 dollar the US government spent on the Human Genome Project it was projected that the economic return on investment would be $141. But over the last 15 years, US funding for science has become stagnant. Putting a scientist on the $10 bill will remind citizens and politicians (who control science funding) that science is important in America.
3. Address disparities & discrimination that still exist in science
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) are some of the most segregated job fields left in the United States. Even in June 2015, sexist remarks are still made publicly about women scientists. Gender equality in science has come a long way, but there is much work to be done. A 2012 study showed that science faculty have a bias towards male students. Barbara McClintock almost left science altogether in 1941 when she was threatened to be fired if she ever got married. Women continue to leave science rather than advance in academia – a 2007 study found that 45% of postdoctoral fellows in biomedical science are women, but women make up only 29% of the tenure-track investigators and 19% of tenured senior investigators.
Americans need to see that science is not just for men. Many things need to be done to improve the workplace to ensure that half the population is able to fully engage in these fields. But one thing can be done now – with your support, we can put a woman of science on the $10 Bill.