My department has been hosting a Microscopy Symposium this week at the institute. Two of those days included guest speakers, researchers doing relevant things in microscopy. What I loved about this is that both of our guest speakers just happened to be women. I know that my boss didn’t choose these speakers based on their gender. In fact I’m positive that this didn’t even cross my boss’s mind when he was looking for speakers. They were chosen based on their work and it’s relevance to our symposium. Which is how I’d want to be chosen for some such thing.
I hear a lot of talk about getting young girls interested in math and science. The idea is that there is an inequality in male to female ratio in the science industry. Statistically, this may be true. I am the only girl in my department, but I have been lucky enough to have had work environments that are fairly equal. Not only have I been fortunate enough to have worked in these places, but I have worked for and with some pretty amazing and awe inspiring women. I can also honestly say that I have never felt less than any of my male peers. Yes, there have been a few occasions when I have felt like a man was treating me like I didn’t know anything because I am just a girl, but all of those instances occurred when dealing with a man in maintenance or grounds and housekeeping, usually a man less educated. There are twenty principal investigators here and seven of those are women. Those are women with PhDs running their own labs. I’m positive at one time my industry was pretty tough on women. In fact I know it was because I’ve heard the stories from the women before me, but thankfully these women have forged the way for the rest of us.
That’s not to say that I don’t think we should be encouraging girls to be more interested in the math and sciences. I just think we should be encouraging them for the right reasons. I was never discouraged from pursuing math and sciences as a young girl. I had great teachers, male and female, who encouraged my interests in science and made learning fun and engaging. We need to encourage young girls today not because there’s a lack of women in science, but because they need to know that they are just as capable of doing math and pursuing research as any boy. But there’s more to it than this. We need to be encouraging these girls to pursue the things that engages them. The lesson should be “You can be ANY thing you want to be”, not “you can be a scientist”.
Sarah is constantly telling me how hard it is to find a female scientist role model for her daughter and how great it is that she can point to me to be that role model for her. But I don’t want to be a female scientist role model. I just want to be a role model. I want little girls to look at me and not just see “scientist”. I want them to see someone who is doing a job they love and know that they can have that too.
Girl Power for your Love Thursday!