International Women’s Day at the Molecular Circus

Today is something a bit different on the blog. Today is International Women’s Day, and I wanted to take the chance to celebrate women in science. However, if you’re missing All The Science, I did a guest post over at the lovely Anna’s ridiculously stylish and awesome Skin & Blister blog yesterday, all about the science of gas & air, so pop on over and revel in the cuddly science. Then head back here and we’ll have a little Women In Science Party. With cake, OBVIOUSLY.

As an aside, I can also be found at some point today over at Any Other Woman, participating in their IWD celebration on what being a woman means. I’m super flattered that they’re sharing my words, and sincerely urge you ALL to go spend the day reading the hourly posts from their community on the subject of being a woman. I can 100% guarantee it will make you laugh, cry and applaud from your seat. I know this because it always does.

Now, onto the IWD celebrations here at the Molecular Circus; although there are so many issues, I am not going to write about the problems for women in science, today. Today is a day to celebrate women. And a lot of people far more qualified than me have written about these issues, many times. Recently, I particularly adore the blog Elodie Under Glass, and her posts on women in science. I pretty much read every post nodding along, and sometimes hitting my desk in vehement agreement.

Anyone interested in reading more about the problems faced by women in science should also read Athene Donald’s blog religiously, particularly her posts about imposter syndrome, which I know I experienced while I was in the lab, and is clearly something that a lot of people, especially women, experience and war against daily.

But as I said, these women, and many others, are far better equipped than me to tell you about the problems women face making a career in science. Some amazing people, like Science Grrl, and numerous brilliant individuals, are already doing something about it. Today, I wanted to write today about someone inspirational in science, a woman who has made a difference. I ran through loads of options in my mind, and I settled on Rosalind Franklin, who I have been obsessed with and inspired by since I first heard about her when I was about 10 years old. Then the lovely Amy forwarded me an email that made me reconsider. Rosalind Franklin’s name is relatively well-known now, but there are many women who are fighting for equality in science who don’t make huge discoveries, who don’t necessarily even work in research and who are unknown, who go unacknowledged. I decided after reading them that I wanted to share these words, with the kind permission of Catherine, who wrote them…

“I’d like to share with you all a story about my mum, Maxine Clarke. She was the ultimate champion of women’s rights – from when she went to university back in the 1970s and was undoubtedly involved in some kind of feminist movement, right through to her working life where she took the time to mentor women and help them to progress up the career track. Not to mention how fiercely she fought to get the best possible out of life for me and my sisters.

 She worked for the science journal Nature, who this week are publishing an edition dedicated to women in science in honour of International Women’s Day. This has been dedicated to the memory of my mum:

‘This special issue is dedicated to the memory of Maxine Clarke. In the 28 years that Maxine spent championing the highest scientific standards as an editor at Nature, she was all too often the only one to ask, “Where are the women?”’

 After she passed away in December, I was overwhelmed by the number of letters and emails my family received from female colleagues in particular, telling us how grateful they were that she had taken them under her wing, that she had offered advice, support and encouragement and that she had been a champion for women’s rights in the science/ publishing world.

 I really feel that this should be an inspiration to us all that we should look out for each other, especially in the world of work where it can be tough for women. You never know how greatly appreciated one small action of support or kindness can be.”

Maxine Clarke with her offer letter from Nature in 1984.

Maxine Clarke with her offer letter from Nature in 1984.

After I read this, I knew this was the message I wanted to share today. There IS inequality in science, the gender gap exists and the leaky pipeline is real. That is why it is so important to have women like Maxine Clarke, and also initiatives like Science Grrl, who ask that question “where are the women?”, and who, more importantly, ask “how can we change this?”

That’s what I want to think about on International Women’s Day, how can we change the future so it is better?


6 thoughts on “International Women’s Day at the Molecular Circus

  1. I have nothing constructive to say Katie, apart from YES. That is a brilliant story and a mission that you are helping with and striving towards every time you write a brilliant post or make us all think about how awesome science is. You are an inspiration. xx

  2. I love this. The department I did my PhD in had no female academics, none! But the labs were way over half full of girls, so there is hope…
    Jocelyn Bell Burnell is my science heroine, despite not knowing much about her when I was actually being a scientist, I had to watch a documentary about her for a TV programme I was working on. I was meant to skim watch it for good footage we could use but instead I sat engrossed for an hour listening to her discuss the crap she had to put up with being a woman physicist but how she persevered anyway and made amazing discoveries about the universe. At the end I felt like standing up and clapping!

  3. Pingback: International Women’s Day at the Molecular Circus | Science Communication Blog Network

  4. I really love this – this is what we need to do in every part of life, not just ask the difficult questions but act to make change happen. Hurrah for women and men who do that – we need to have more people like that, which means we all need to try to be a little bit more like that I think.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s