Welcome to the real world,
Doing it all
As a recent Biological Sciences Division
graduate, I enjoy reading profiles of other women in science to
learn how their careers developed. However, I became quite outraged
while reading “Full
Speed Ahead” (February/04) about Dr. Lynn Margulis, AB’57.
Dr. Margulis is quoted as saying, “It’s not humanly
possible to be a good wife, a good mother, and a first-class scientist.
No one can do it—something has to go.” This type of
thinking from a woman who has reached a position of power in academic
biology is irresponsible and appalling.
This stereotyping is exactly what leads to the
so-called “leaky pipeline” phenomenon of women in the
sciences. While many women begin training for careers in science,
very few make it to careers as independent academic scientists.
Through subtle (and not so subtle) differences in the way women
and men are mentored and supported, especially after a woman decides
to start a family, women face an uphill battle in achieving their
career goals. Many potential mentors assume that a woman is not
serious about her career and is unlikely to be successful after
marrying or having children, and publishing this type of quotation
only reinforces these biases. I can’t imagine the fallout
if a man had publicly made a comment like this, as it is clearly
sexist, and there should be no less of a response when a woman expresses
I know many women, several current BSD faculty
are prime examples, who successfully balance their personal lives
and academic careers. It is the responsibility of all faculty to
lower barriers, improve opportunities, and encourage and support
both men and women striving to be excellent in all aspects of their
lives. As I begin my career in academics, I know that I will be
working hard every day to prove Dr. Margulis wrong.
Dawn Belt Davis, PhD’01, MD’03
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