Why the fuss about women in science?

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 🙂



  1. well for me the only thing to think about women in jobs, is as you said, their own choices, like some companies get warned about married women (or women in serious relations…) for later on being distracted away from work by means of family and children… but for the other side i couldnt see the point,if it was for a secretary job, and being a nice female gives you and extra, then it may make some sense. but in sciences… i couldnt see the point

    1. I think there are two important issues here: why do some companies assume women are more likely so stay at home with the kids? For me, I know for sure I won’t. If we are going to have kids, my partner will probably have the major role. He is simply more fond of kids than I am and more flexible in his work. I am not sure how this is in your society, but here it is becoming more common for men to take care of the kids as well. Even though of course in the majority of the families the woman still is the main caregiver.

      Second; why would women be more suited for secretary jobs than men? I know this is what we see traditionally, but why is this? Why shouldn’t they be equally suited for the job, where does the difference come from?

      1. I believe you have at least noticed few ads that talk about a shop, a car, a necklace, a juice or a drink or anything….. but all it focuses on is a beautiful woman showing off her body or even getting unclothed, and here too what is the point?? and what could it be other than using the woman’s body for attracting idiotic men to buy the product
        it is the same for every thing else, sadistic men love to keep use of women, and I think you heard about the increasing number of women being subjected to sexual harrasement every year. same reason for secretary i guess…..
        but I should mention that I think women have some advantage in some jobs over men, like in nursery for example a woman’s soft hands are unmatchable, and for taking care for children, men are awful, like a mother could directly know what her little baby wants from the first moment he starts crying, but a father never knows….
        on the other side, consider the army, men are in general better, yet their could be exceptions for women that could play heroic roles in battles….

      2. what I believe in that there should be no rules, every one should do the job he likes, there is only one rule, a man is responsible for everything, he should work and if he doesn’t then he is slacking off, but if a woman decides she wants to stay at home, and not work, then it is her right to do so, it is not a shame…

      3. Sorry for the slow response. You know, here in Germany things are a bit differently sometimes. If a woman is happy in her job and her husband happy at home, then that is fine as well. And shame on me, but little children mostly start crying around me, whereas my boyfriend is really good with kids. It might be true that most women are better with babies than men, but there are exceptions and that should be okay too, so I think we should try to stop generalizing.

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