May 15 2005, some thoughts about women in science:
I just finished reading a very interesting biography of
Marie Curie. I knew about her of course, but not the details.
I didn't know that she was awarded not one, but two Nobel prizes, and
also had two daughters. I didn't know how she struggled against being
labeled her husband's "lab assistant" and then, after he died,
a "loose woman". I didn't know how driven she was, how she
had to be reminded to eat, and how her daughters always knew
that her third child was science, and it was maybe her favourite
It was a wonderful story of how brave she was and how much
she perservered in her career. She was brilliant! And how
am I supposed to live up to that sort of standard?
So let's go back a bit; let's talk about the term WOMEN IN
SCIENCE. I hate that term. I'm a scientist; I love asking
questions, figuring out the answers, running experiments, sharing
my ideas. I'm also a woman; I've had two children, so I think
that qualifies me for that title. But I hate being labeled. I
love being a scientist and I love being a woman and a mother, so
why does that have to make me special? Why do I have to stand out
for being who I am? I think this is the struggle that Marie
fought too. How to be WHO SHE WAS, even though it didn't fit
OTHER PEOPLE's ideas of who she was. Luckily for me the general
public's ideas of what a woman can be have changed since Marie,
and I'm sure her success was a factor in that. But there is
still this label of WOMEN IN SCIENCE, with which both Marie and
I get stamped. Why can' I just be a scientist? Or a mother?
Why is this combination still so weird, so worthy of notice?
It really shouldn't be.