Now I apologize for screenshotting it, you can go and check out the whole project, but I wanted to share this 'overview' photo because it highlights something important.
Did you notice the important thing?
...Where are the women?
There are in fact two of them (can you find them??) but in general this is pretty representative of my experience as a woman in science.
I reckon that until there are at least 10 women in that picture, you would assume it was all men at first glance.
Yesterday I met with a group of women within STFC to discuss issues of why women leave science (in particular academic science) and I wanted to share my thoughts with you on this blog.
Apologies for the rant in advance.
It is continually thrust in my face that I am unlikely to succeed in my chosen career. While I identify in many ways with the nobel laureates in the pictures (their thirst for knowledge, creative side and joy of discovery) this kind of image does nothing to bolster my confidence or persuade me that it is, in fact, possible to succeed in my career.
Meeting all the women at work yesterday did infinitely more to convince me in a positive way that what I am attempting is not impossible. I firmly believe it is VERY possible if only I would stop letting the debilitating doubts in the back of my mind [these doubts are not self-generated but I believe are caused by being constantly reminded of my supposed "chances" in this career].
So it's hardly bleeding surprising that there have been instances when I have felt like quitting science. I wondered if perhaps these things have convinced other women to leave science, so maybe I should spell out a list of things which have happened to me just in the last year which have made me want to quit:
- When an eminent professor in another country spelled it out to me in no uncertain terms that I would always have to be better than the men I work with to get equal credit or even be taken seriously.
- When I was harassed at a recent conference.
- When I was sent a job advert that I could do with my current skill set at twice my current salary that was permanent, non-competitive, local and not stereotypically 'male'. (ie. I was provided an option of an 'easy way out'. Just in case I wanted to quit, you know...)
- Whenever I consider the idea of having a family in the next 5 years and think of all the times I've been told how bleedin' hard that will be while pursuing an academic career & the post-doc circuit.
- When I was listed as "homemaker" on our mortgage application because my independent research fellowship apparently doesn't count as having a job or an income. Where is the respect for my long-fought-for career, seriously?
- Every time I see a woman or man who I respect and admire leaving science because they have grown tired of all the things I've listed above and more.
I know hard. I work hard. I'm OK with doing hard, scary, challenging things. I'm not doing science because it's easy. I don't run marathons because they are easy either. That said, one thing marathon running has taught me is the importance of a positive mentality.
So when it comes to a career in science I simply have to block out all the negative messages I'm being sent and repeat my mantra: I CAN do this. I WILL succeed.
Now just let me get on and do it!