Friday, November 17, 2006

Professional and professorial

I love science, I really do. I love figuring things out and explaining them and putting little pieces together. But the last several years, it’s been a little like an unfaithful spouse.

I feel so betrayed by science, the professoriate (in the abstract), and by my own expectations. I wanted to teach; I wanted to be a professor. I got here only to learn that I would have to make enormous sacrifices, many of which are not asked of my male colleagues- have you ever heard a young man say he can’t have kids because he might not get tenure then? No, I don’t think so. Not to speak of the overwhelming majority of female scientists whose partners are also scientists, and the underwhelming minority of male scientists who must deal with two-body job problems. Salaries for new female professors are still lower than for male profs with equal experience. I am amazed- and not in a good way- that women only make up fifteen percent of the professors in my field. It is 2006. Why has it taken thirty years to get to even this point? Do I have to wait for the whole last generation to die before I can expect real change? Why are we getting screwed over in so many ways? Why are we still told to choose between family and jobs? Why do people keep writing letters to Nature claiming that discrimination is all gone? Why do universities not realize they have to change?

So I won’t be a professor. I’ll get over it. And I will try not to quit, I will. I paid too much- emotionally and physically- to give up now. I can be tough. I can be wrong in a loud voice. I can keep my anger out of view. I will endure all this until one day when I can teach and serve and give back, and maybe, if I’m lucky, convince a few children that the world is a beautiful and fascinating place and that science is a wonderful way to understand it. And maybe, just maybe some of them will grow up both believing in equality and experiencing it.


  1. Anonymous5:08 PM

    Hi, just showed up over here. I know JUST what you are saying! It's quite hard. I have given up on science, but I hope you don't! I just hate that my quitting adds to the hideous statistics of the number of women with PhDs in biology who aren't still in the field. But I couldn't stay in academia just for that reason alone (obviously) so, onward. And I really hope that my future children grow up in a world where there is more equality as well as where women didn't feel compelled to be 'like men' to succeed. Well, I could go on and on, but I'll stop!

  2. There's no shame in quitting. If you don't like academia... There is a real world out there! Other academics try to deny it and convince you otherwise, but you could really, truely do something else! (Just something to think about!)

  3. Anonymous11:44 AM

    I love this last paragraph - thanks for the reminder.


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