Officially I'm a Research Support Assistant, which is a fancy way of saying Lab Technician With a Bachelor's Degree. I'm likely to have a similar title wherever it is I end up next month. Occasionally I harbor delusions of getting a PhD, but I also harbor delusions of bicycle racing, and look how well that's turning out. I don't even bother to harbor delusions of cyclotouring the state of Illinois anymore; it's just too depressing to think about how old I'm going to be when I finally have that much spare time and money again. It's almost as depressing as considering how old I'd be when I finally did get a PhD. Or how old and unmarried I currently am.
(Nuckfuts, between the delusional ambitions and the depressive bouts of hopelessness, how did nobody, least of all me,
figure out I was bipolar until I was 30? Shouldn't it have been fairly obvious all along? Is Manic Jenny really that much better of a person, or is she just more fun at parties?)
Anyway, I say I'm sort of a scientist because, well, because I participate in the scientific process. Sort of. Hence, that makes me sort of a scientist. (Logic and so forth.) At any rate, science is my profession now, I guess, assuming I do indeed get one of those jobs. I sure hope I do. Otherwise my profession is going to be undefined again, and I'll go right back to regretting my failure to have engaged that worthless son of a bitch and spent the rest of my life raising his legitimate children. Well, after the second layoff, in the absence of a career, I decided that I needed a family instead. But after a Honda Civic abruptly ended that delusion, I threw myself into my work, such as it was.
One thing I noticed was the women. Plenty of women. Absolutely no shortage of women. OK, I was researching a rare disease that predominantly affects women, so perhaps it's inevitable that women will dominate the field, or at least seem to. (They key players are pretty equally distributed among the two main genders, now that I think about it.) But there was also the clinical lab. And the core lab. And especially the other core lab. And the departmental dinner. Even well beyond the narrow field of the rare disease I was studying, there I was surrounded by fellow women. Fellow women, I might add, who are the best and the brightest of THE best and THE brightest, the most brilliant and dedicated people I've ever seen, performing at the top of their game every single day like it's just their job
or something. A lowly Research Support Assistant can't even begin to compare. But I did begin to dream.
Being a woman in science, sort of, it's not unusual to encounter discussion on the problem of Women in X, where X is some area where women have traditionally been marginalized. If you're reading this blog, you're probably at least passing familiar with this problem. How do we get more Women in Cycling. What are the challenges faced by Women in Cycling, and how do we surmount those challenges. Well, there's a Women in Science problem, too. But for a very similar problem, the solutions are vastly different. I think it's because scientists feel obliged to pretend that they're more objective than everyone else, even when they're not.
Still, something the scientists are doing must be working, if this woman is looking around and wondering whether the Women in Science problem even exists anymore. Now, I should mention that it has been pointed out to me, on numerous occasions, that I'm both American and white. The problem for women in other countries, and for women in this country of a minority race/ethnicity, is still very real and cannot be ignored. Hell, I understand the problem for any Woman in Science who wants to start or has recently started a family is pretty impossible to ignore as well. But I can't speak from that kind of personal experience because I don't have it. All I can say is that as an unmarried white American woman in science (sort of), specifically biomed (I know math, physics, engineering, chemistry, or basically anything that's not alive is a different matter altogether), I feel no discrimination on the basis of my sex/gender alone. In that respect, at least, something is being done right.
Scientists bend over backwards to prove that, all sociodemographic factors being exactly equal, men's and women's capabilities are exactly equal. Meanwhile, cyclists go out of their way to demonstrate that men and women are fundamentally different, with the sociodemographic differences being the most important ones of all. I shouldn't ask which approach is meeting with more success because it's probably an apples-to-oranges comparison. It's just... bewildering sometimes, to be immersed in both environments on the same day. Every day. I go to work under one set of expectations, then I'm at work under a completely different set of expectations, then on my way home I'm back under the previous expectations. And nobody else seems to think this is weird.