L’Oreal Women in Science Booklet: if only it included the non-traditional routes too…

A friend just sent me the link to the AAAS Science website page announcing the release of the L’Oreal Women in Science Booklet, which describes it as:

“….a collection of truly inspirational stories from women in all walks of life whose common passion is science. Not all are famous, but they are all successful in their own right, whether it be receiving awards, juggling both a job and a family, or fighting discrimination or cultural restrictions.”

I realize the job of AAAS is to get more scientists into science – but I can’t help but feel that a significant portion (like many of the contributors to Motherhood) would be left out if Science were defined as strictly as it seems to be in the sections of this booklet I perused.

Of course I immediately clicked on the PDF about Juggling Work and Family, which led to an article published back in February 2008.  While the focus is on academia, and women who chose to do it all – tenure + family – suggesting this is what they mean by “successful in their own right,” I was glad to see the following section which paid tribute to one women who made a different choice:

“This was the case with chemist Elizabeth Grayson. She wanted to raise her children full-time rather than hire a nanny or place her children in day care. Nevertheless, she felt unfulfilled, even though she had kept up her interest in chemistry by doing editing and translations of scientific texts (she is fluent in German and French). After a gap of 19 years, at the age of 47, Elizabeth applied for and was awarded a Daphne Jackson fellowship in 2001. With the fellowship she took a half-time teaching position at Durham University, UK. Now she combines teaching with research—though not as an independent investigator, and her research is unpaid. “I’m really just happy to be able to use my skills. I really love teaching and I’m able to do that and carry on with the research that I’m interested in.”

As a more mature—and maternal—person, Elizabeth finds herself a popular figure. “Being one of not many women in chemistry I get approached by a lot of students because they know I’ll give them my time.”

This last line reminded me of an acquaintance and Philosopher (I suppose one of the few of us who truly has a PhD) whom I occasionally see around town. Nina works part-time (school hours, she’s got a young son) and is married to an ecologist who, like me and mine, is the one with the full-time research career. As a part-timer, and partner in a dual-career marriage Nina keeps her brain busy and her Philosopher -self alive by providing an invaluable yet under appreciated service to local colleges teaching intensely creative courses, as an adjunct, lecturer, visiting faculty, you name it. Fortunately, what keeps her going is that students tend to value what the colleges do not. While colleges count the beans, research papers, and grant money – students know that time spent with an experienced caring faculty is a valuable and rare thing these days.

What the students get from Nina is a fully devoted faculty member who has the time not only to offer new and exciting courses – but also a Philosopher who has the time to sit down and have coffee with them – or discuss their writing projects. These are intangibles for the college – yet so real and important for students.

I am sure that there are many Nina’s out there (both men and women) who offer their minds and their hearts to students at local colleges. My hope is that someday their efforts will be recognized and appreciated by their host institutions.


2 Responses to “L’Oreal Women in Science Booklet: if only it included the non-traditional routes too…”

  1. 1 Ric Weibl May 27, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    Thanks for the plug of the L’Oreal Women in Science booklet. A better URL / link for the book would be:

    This special publication was, by design, focused on a specific set of science careers. AAAS/Science recognizes and is working to demonstrate not only the many pathways one might take to a career in science, but also the many places in which science is practiced as a career.

    Please look around the rest of the Science Careers Web site, I think you will find more examples of the type you are seeking. Over the years, Science Careers and it’s earlier incarnation Science’s Next Wave, has intentionally given voice to “alternative” pathways as well as a strong affirmation the importance broadening participation in science.

    One final note. While it often appears we view science from a narrow set of disciplines, you will find AAAS/Science has a very big tent view of science.
    Center for Careers

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