Dr. Mom, My Adventures as a Mommy-Scientist

Discussion of my journey from grad school to postdoc to tenure with two kids, a husband, (and a bit of breast cancer) in tow.

Monday, December 07, 2009


Quote from an email this morning:

Do you have more specific requirement in race or sex? I've heard many professor don't like female students in laboratory.

I almost choked on my tea when I read this. Seriously? Seriously? Is this still a prevalent attitude anywhere? And why oh why would you ask an obviously female professor this question? It made me very sad.

The person in question is female, is applying for grad school at midwestern R1U, and is from an Asian country. We get a number of students female and otherwise from this country so I can't imaging that this is a prevalent view there, yet she still felt compelled to ask. Urgh!

I replied that I valued intellectual contributions and commitment to research more than any other attributes and that my lab is already diverse with a number of male and female students from foreign countries and the US and from a number of different ethnicities. I hope that this response puts her more at ease, but I still can't imagine feeling that my contributions might not be valued because I am a woman.



At 1:29 PM , Blogger ScienceWoman said...

Sounds to me like either she has had a bad experience herself or she's had some really bad "advice" given to her. So sad.

At 5:57 PM , Blogger Ambivalent Academic said...

Ouch. I was actually fed this very line (from my grad program admin) about the professor under whom I chose to complete my Ph.D. The administrator turned out to be correct - the PI didn't like me much - but not because I am a woman. After observing interactions between this PI and other lab members the pattern for like/dislike correlates strongly with communication styles, and not with gender...at least in this case. Nonetheless, it totally pisses me off that people in a position of authority (like my grad program admin) still schill this crap. If it were true that the PI didn't like women I guess I'd like to know but get the story straight.

And don't even get me started on the flip side of this coin. I can't even tell you how many of my labmates (students and post-docs of both genders) have said at one point or another that they wouldn't ever want to work for a female PI. This never ceases to surprise me, especially since I have yet to hear a rational reason for this preference.

At 10:09 PM , Anonymous Tricia Kenny said...

I worked in a lab between 1990 and 2001 and never experienced discrimination due to my gender.

Actually being a woman helped kick off my scientist career. I got my first funded post (USDA) because of being a woman. I received a scholarship for minority/women scientists.


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