Minorities in the Sciences

unknown at dl.ac.uk unknown at dl.ac.uk
Mon Jan 17 12:14:22 EST 1994

Thanks to the woman who listed information on newsgroups for lesbians in the 
sciences.  It is wonderful to have so many people sharing their resources and 

My field of interest is in tropical ecology, a field which has been 
traditionally a *good olU boys club.*  All the fields in the sciences have 
really been dominated by men for that matter.  I am choosing to stay in this 
geographical area to do my PhD work, so my options are quite limited.  I have a 
home, a family, and a small business so relocating is not something I wish to 
do.  Therefore, I am left with working with one of a handful of male tropical 
biologists in the area.  All of them seem rather laid back.  But as I mentioned 
in an earlier message, one of them is very preoccupied with womensU personal 
lives and topics on sex in general.  I have no problem with putting him in his 
place and setting boundaries (after I am in the program), but it is inevitable 
that my sexual preference will become know in time.  

His professional reputation and successes are great.  Professionally, and 
careerwise, I would jump at the chance to work with him.  On the other hand, I 
have been warned and am skeptical about how our personal relationship might 
develop and how that could ultimately effect my future (recommendations, grades,
 job, etc..).  Because he seems somewhat of a womanizer, how will he view my 
being a lesbian; as a threat? With contempt?  As a challenge?  As a test of his 
manhood?  Or will he just let well enough alone, stick to our research goals, 
encouraging and supporting our work as scientists with me as his equal?  Only 
time will tell.

It is easy to say, and true to a point, that those who are truly your friends 
wonUt be *bothered* by my sexual preference.  However, the professor with whom I
 choose (or need) to work with may not become my friend, at least not initially.
  I will have to work with the professor, and others for at least 4-6 years, so 
the environment I work in is very important.  I have to constantly play the *in 
the closet*- *outta the closet*-*in the closet* game.  Trying to get into a PhD 
program is safer, less risky, and more likely if I choose to be in the closet.  
Though it is against the law for anyone to ask you such questions as *are you 
married* or *do you have children*, etc, nevertheless, interviewers do ask those
 questions; partly to be nosey and partly to find a connection.  Anyway, after I
 am in a program, I find it safer to be out.  But then, once again, I am faced 
with being in or out when it comes time to leave a program and hit the pavement 
so to speak.

It is unfortunate that anyone would have to *hide* who they are, regardless of 
who they are.  Deep down we all know it is wrong, yet discrimination based on 
sex, age, ethnicity, religion, sexual preference, marital status, and children 
continues.  Each of these dimensions of who we are as individuals only compounds
 the inherent discrimination within the system.  Female scientists, though 
increasing in number, still enter a white, male dominated profession.  
Hopefully, someday, women will be in more positions of power, of decision 
making, of hiring, and with each small step will change the system making it a 
safe, equal and respectful place.  In any case, we all must continue to have 
faith in ourselves, being proud of who we are as women and as scientists.

Lelia C. Orrell
E-Mail:    ORRELL at UMBSKY.CC.UMB.EDU        

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