One of my Facebook friends posted a link to this annoying Slate article (I know, redundant)
Old Boys’ Lab
It reads like it was written 30 years ago, except for the “microaggressions” crap. The big, bad men are keeping the poor, helpless girls out of the treehouse. Really? I have a hard time believing that the same economics professor who in 1986 told the class that 10% of coeds sleep with their professors and he wasn’t getting his share would get away with that on today’s overwrought, politically correct campuses.
Now, granted the author interviewed only 9 women about their experiences in the labs, and they talk about academia, not the real world. The cycle of NIH and NSF grant funding might indeed make a professor prefer hiring a man for a post-doc position because a woman in her late 20′s/early 30′s might take off during that year to have a baby. For the woman, if you have to dedicate a significant portion of your life tending to a demanding little tyrant, it might as well be your own flesh-and-blood and not some professor who sees you only as his slave labor. Personally, I think that fewer women are going for Ph.D’s and post-doc work because the jobs are out there for women in scientific fields, and not all require the extra degree.
In the government, much has changed in the last 50 years. A friend wrote a paper on the women engineers and scientists in the Saturn V days at Marshall Space Flight Center.
During the heyday of the Apollo program, there were 6,000 employees at MSFC, but only 22 were women in engineering or science, and I know at least seven of them. These were women with a great deal of persistence, who had successful careers despite roadblocks and lack of mentors. Margaret “Hap” Brennecke had to publish papers on aluminum alloys and welding using her initials, otherwise the papers were rejected. I know two of the women had to fight to keep their jobs after maternity leave. That’s a far cry from feeling oppressed because some lunkhead said your ponytail was “too flouncy for cancer research.” In 1997, a guy praised me for a project done well and added that he didn’t know a woman could do that good a job. He meant it as a compliment, and I took it as such.
We have had women astronauts, women center directors, and a woman deputy administrator. Gone are the days of being like the Brontë sisters and hiding your gender just to get published. You have the Family and Medical Leave Act to protect your job while you’re out on maternity leave. You not only have ladies’ rooms in the labs (they had to add a ladies’ room to the building I was assigned to in 1986), you have on-site daycare and lactation rooms. If someone’s trying to play slap-and-tickle, then either threaten him with a Lorena Bobbitt or report him, don’t just let it slide.
Above all, be competent. When people respect what you do, then chromosomes and plumbing don’t matter. As Patty Ann (God rest her soul) once told me, it’s time to put on your big girl panties and get the job done.