Friday, October 4, 2013

If you have a girl in your family, or even if you don't, read this:

I was not good at math, but my high school chemistry teacher made the labs very interesting to me.  There were 3 women in my college chemistry class (not my section - the whole graduating class).  During the Vietnam war, Emerson Electric told me they did not hire women for the lab jobs.  The next summer, I did manage a job, but the men often came and took over pulling spot wells on the big machine to check the welds. 

I applied to graduate school at Washington University, I left the interview feeling like I would be locked in a lab for five years and let out when I graduated.  When I applied to Indiana University, the faculty talked me into a Masters in Arts of Teaching program.  I did manage to put that right after a semester, but still only took a M.S. in chemistry because the only other women I knew in the program (and IU runs a BIG graduate program) were not in the Ph.D. program.  Serendipitously, I landed at Vanderbilt and finally braved the rigors of the doctoral program.  Even there, a professor told me to go home and have babies when I met him in the lunch line.  While I was in academia, I was the only woman in the chemistry department, and only one woman was a full professor in the A&S school. 

So if you have a girl in the family, buy her a Danica McKellar math book if appropriate, and search for role models and a mentor.  For the most part, and don't we all say that about our jobs, I have had a wonderful journey living better with chemistry, and I wish that on the girls growing up.

No comments: