Thursday, June 16, 2011

June Scientiae: Inspiring Women

Biochembelle, over at Ever On & On, is hosting the second Scientiae of the year. She asks bloggers to:
Contribute your stories of historical or contemporary women in STEM who motivate you.
When I read the call for posts, I thought, and thought, and thought about this. As you may have read recently on my blog, I don't have anyone in real life I would consider to be a good mentor - female or male. There really hasn't been anyone who I look at and think "Yes, I want to be like them."

But, perhaps that's the point. Maybe I don't need to be like others. Maybe I need to go forward in my career and in my personal life the way that best fits me and my family.

Since that post, I've gotten together with my master's supervisor and my post-doc supervisor. Now that I don't work for them, I find our conversations are much more open and personal. It could be because Evan accompanies me to these get-togethers, and so conversation automatically goes toward children, work-life balance, etc.. It was quite interesting hearing how my master's supervisor had to change her priorities once she had children (when I worked for her, she did not have children, and I always thought I could never be successful like her because she worked so much), or how my post-doc supervisor had to juggle three kids while her husband was out of town.

These are just two women who have managed to have a family and be extremely successful in their career...I just never knew about it until recently.

I think this is one of the problems with finding someone whom you would like to model your life after: it's just not talked about (this is one of the wonderful things about the academic blogging community, of which Dr. O writes about here). People go about their business, keeping family life and work life separate, and it's difficult to imagine them worrying about their daughter who has a fever or making sure they get to their son's soccer game on time.

There should be a conference for academic parents, where we can share our hardships and celebrations, and share ideas on how we balance it all. We could all serve as roll-models for up-and-coming academics. Instead of never discussing our family lives, we can be open, honest, and supportive and show them it can be done.