Re. Did we have it all? the academic question

Karen Lona Allendoerfer ravena at
Wed Aug 26 00:00:13 EST 1998

Susan Forsburg wrote:

> But also
>I feel very strongly that women should not be forced to cede academia
>as a viable career option just because it is moving at a glacial rate
>in terms of managing its human resources.  After all, the first
>connection that most young women have to active science careers is
>the professors who teach them, and for all levels of students,
>I think it is especially important they see women faculty.

Even though I'm about to start a biotech job on Sept. 1, I think you're
absolutely right, here.

>I guess what I would really would like to see is a concerted effort
>to drag academia (kicking and screaming no doubt) into a more
>enlightened era for men and women.  Right now, the status quo is deeply
>entrenched, and a good 10-20 years behind the business sector. And isn't
>THAT a scary thought!  :-)

Yes, it is a scary thought--and I think it's true not just in terms of
family-friendly policies, but also in terms of institutional organization .
. . but that's another post.

FWIW, the successful efforts that I have seen being made in this regard
come from individual women themselves.  For example, there is an on-site
daycare center at the Max-Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in
Tuebingen.  It was started by two woman scientists there at the time,
Sigrun Korsching and Maria Leptin.  They were written up in _Science_ 3 or
4 years ago, and pictured with their toddlers.  I have heard that
Christiane Nusslein-Vollhard has donated some of her prize money to daycare
centers and other efforts to help women scientists--I don't know if she was
involved in that particular center, it's been a while since I read the

While I don't know the situation at Megan Brown's institution, I would bet
that it also took a concerted effort on the part of many women working
together to get that great breast pump sign-up system that she described,
up and going.  I would doubt that the administration of the institution
just woke up one day, had the full-blown idea, and then decided to bestow
it upon them.

My advice would be, find a few like-minded people with similar needs.  They
don't have to be women, and they don't have to be PhD level.  They could be
in other departments, doing other jobs.  And then decide what the needs
are, and look for a way to fulfill them.  Start a day-care center, start a
breast-pump room, start a lounge, library, or seminar series.  

I know that's easier said than done, given all the other responsibilities
that scientists have.  But I think that's how the business world first did
it, too.


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