I have never been much of a feminist or promoter of women in any kind of job. I always thought that people make their own choices and end up where they want to be (at least in wealthy countries where people do not primarily have to worry about a house to live in and about getting enough to eat). I assumed that there may be less women in certain professions because they may have chosen for a family, or for a job that is easier to combine with their interests. But I’m slowly realizing that that is way too simplistic and naive.
As I told you, I have been applying for research fellowships. The results should come in soon. But what I experienced as a real eye-opener, were the reactions of people when I tell them about my plans. Such as:
“I think you have a good chance because you are female and young“.
Ehhh, excuse me, but maybe I would prefer to get this fellowship because I have written a good proposal and not because I happen to have breasts? I looked up EMBO’s selection criteria and was not surprised but still a little relieved to see that age or gender are not one of them. Publication record, project proposal, recommendations, host lab and interview make the score. Same goes for the other organizations I checked, only professional criteria.
Really got me thinking though. A friend of mine has applied for a job with two companies. She felt much more at ease with one, because the percentage of women was a lot higher there. So I thought okay, why not head for the other? Probably they haven’t reached their female quota yet, making the chances you will get promoted better. And immediately wanted to give myself a slap for merely thinking this. Just as I don’t want to get a fellowship because I’m female, she wouldn’t like to be promoted merely because she is female. If companies would really do this, I think this would be a huge problem. In my opinion, candidates best suited for the job should be taken, not the second best candidate because the best candidate was male and does not suit the quota criteria…
So yes, I’m slowly beginning to appreciate the difficulties around this topic. For now, I’ve decided to just point this out to people whenever they say my chances are good because I’m female and the likes. I’m going to carry on with my research plans as I see fit (and probably switch directions due to unforeseen circumstances anyway ;)). And on the way maybe get some increased insight in the issues around women in science, see what the difficulties and the possibilities are. Share a bit of that with you on here. We’ll see where this’ll lead 🙂