If I had five dollars for each time someone had a shocked or surprised look on their face when I told them what I do for a living, I probably wouldn’t be a millionaire but maybe a thousandaire….
How many times do you meet new people and when it’s time for the routine question of what do you do for a living, you hope a new conversation comes up before you have to say that you’re a scientist.
When I landed my first internship at the NIH during the summer of my sophomore year of college, I was so proud of it (as I should have been). I told anyone and everyone that would listen about my research, whether they cared or not. A picture of myself grinning from ear to ear in front of an NIH podium was also plastered all over my social media. However, my excitement began to fade when I started noticing people’s reactions when I talked about my research. I hate to admit it, but something that brought me so much joy and pride, began to make me feel embarrassed. I began to notice that although I was so excited to talk about my work, not everyone was excited to hear about it. I noticed that when people asked me what I was doing over the summer and I said research, they would say something along the lines of, “really, are you being serious….” That summer was when I began to realize that people are truly not used to seeing women excited about science, and they act as though you’re the one who’s in the wrong for liking science. Being completely candid, I began to feel extremely embarrassed for liking science and from then on I always kept it to myself. As I continued to get more involved in science throughout college, whenever someone would meet me in a non academic setting they would always give me the same, ‘are you really interested in science?’
“That summer was when I began to realize that people are truly not used to seeing women excited about science, and they act as though you’re the one who’s in the wrong for liking science.”
When I decided that I wanted to be a scientist and pursue a PhD after graduating from college, I didn’t want to tell anyone about it. I didn’t feel like going through the ‘are you really a scientist or are you sure you want to do research’ conversation. There are so many instances where women in science feel that they need to dim their light and hide their interest in science. This is especially apparent in young girls who don’t even want to be interested in science because of the stereotypes that surround women in science.
"There are so many instances where women in science feel that they need to dim their light and hide their interest in science."
I know that I am not the only one that has been through this, which is why I strongly advocate for girls and women in science to stick together and encourage each other. From people doubting if you’re really a scientist to other scientists doubting your abilities, girls and women in science still face so many hurdles. To all my bad a** girls and women in science out there, be proud of what you do and don’t ever be afraid or embarrassed to talk about it. You never know who needs to see you do it to know that they can too!
Have you ever experienced something like this? Let us know in the comments!