• Question: It's often really hard to be taken seriously as a woman. It seems like, in my experience, no matter how smart you are, how tough, or how strong, a guy can "do it better". Which of course is ridiculous. But what's it like being a woman in the science field? Any advice? Is it harder to be taken seriously or is it a pretty even field?

    Asked by El to Sharon, Sahra, Jenn, Candace on 10 Mar 2017.
    • Photo: Jennifer Hintzsche

      Jennifer Hintzsche answered on 10 Mar 2017:

      Wow what a great question! Early on- people that wrote code told me I didn’t look like someone who knew how to write code. Scientist told me I didn’t “act like a scientist”. Probably because I’m loud and outgoing and don’t fit into the stereotype of either of these worlds yet I’m in both! I don’t know if it was sexist or just stereotyping but I did hear that quite a bit. Funny thing about my personality is I love being told I can’t do something- it makes me determined to prove them wrong. Usually the first time people hear me talk about research that stops. They then know that I know what I’m talking about and I’m easily taken seriously. The first time they read my code they know I know what I’m doing. The best part is the look on their face when you surprise them- I’ve come to enjoy that 🙂

    • Photo: Xueyuan Jiang

      Xueyuan Jiang answered on 10 Mar 2017:

      Hi El,

      Based on my personal experience, I would admit that gender inequality do exist. I’m the only child in my family and I’m very blessed to receive endless love from my parents. I never realized that I could be judged based on my gender until I enter my middle 20s, the age when women are “supposed to” get married and start a family. My relatives (not my parents) and some random people keep telling me that women “should” get married before they turn 30, otherwise they would “lose value”.

      Well, we both know that’s not true. I chose to ignore them and pursue a scientific career at the other side of the world. I met a lot of female scientists here. We’re from different places around the world, but we all love science and decide to live our lives the way we want. Some of my friends met their significant other in graduate school, and get married. Some even become parents. Family and career are not mutually exclusive. You can have both, just don’t get pushed into anything.

      In academia, peer review is usually merit-based. As a graduate student, I never felt any discrimination against my gender. There might be an issue decades ago, but not anymore, not now. If the research is top-notch/cutting-edge, it will be appreciated. The real problem is how would you balance work and your role as a wife/mother.

      My advice is study hard and excel at whatever you do. When it comes to the time to choose someone to work with, or share a life with, choose those who respect you.

      Have a beautiful life,

    • Photo: Sahra Uygun

      Sahra Uygun answered on 14 Mar 2017:

      Hi El, Great questions and comments. These prejudices you listed unfortunately exist. I personally have not faced a direct discrimination based on my gender, apart from the questions like “Can you make it (getting a PhD) all alone?”.
      I think the way you live your life, the area you study and work on should not be determined by other people. My advice would be, as hard as it can be, to ignore the discriminatory comments by other people and work hard towards your goals!

    • Photo: Candace Lewis

      Candace Lewis answered on 14 Mar 2017:

      Hmmm. This question is so complex. Let me try and explain. I do not feel I have been directly treated or told I am inferior since I am female, I do carry the many invisible burdens that all women in this country carry. For example, I am constantly calculating how to be assertive without being aggressive, how to lead without being bossy, how to look professional but not too “pretty” or not too “ugly”. All summer I have to consider the width of my tank top straps and the length of the my shorts – and how these things will affect me at work. I notice how male colleagues speak over me more than my male peers. I notice how my female peers are constantly fighting self-doubt while males do so to a lesser degree. Women are still the primary caregivers and run households by carrying the heavier weight of chores like laundry, cleaning, cooking, and grocery shopping. Women’s career trajectorties are still more heavily penalized during child bearing and raising years than men’s. My advise – stand your ground and know whole-heartedly what you are good at and keep getting better. Speak up if you feel you are being mistreated or judged because you are female. Seek out and keep women mentors!