Evolutionary Applications published a special issue this month highlighting contributions of women to basic and applied evolutionary biology. I know I should read all the science bits, but it's late, and I still have teaching prep to do, so I read all the 'personal reflections' boxes instead. I loved them. I loved reading about the different paths these amazing women took to get to where they are now, their highlights and struggles, their stories of fieldwork with kids in tow, and most of all I loved reading the advice from the experienced academics.
To quote Judy Myers (my former postdoc advisor, current mentor, and trail blazer for gender balance in ecology and evolution at UBC and in Canada): "Don't readily take ‘no’ for an answer, hire a cleaning person as soon as you can, marry someone as smart or smarter than yourself who can cook, don't be afraid to wait until after you get tenure to have children, enjoy what you do and keep smiling.".
I was fascinated by Carol Lee's account of her mother's expectations of her as a child and young adult, and her own experiences with racism and stereotyping when she moved back to the USA. She ends with the following: "The sad reality is that sometimes the people closest to you are the very ones that try to inhibit your growth or progress. Despite close contact, even they could be blinded by preconceived notions and expectations of who you are and what you should become. I have been fortunate to transcend those limitations and escape from being boxed in. In turn, I try to put my best effort into seeing people for who they are, and try to question my own assumptions and biases. I think we would all benefit from being more thoughtful, more perceptive and more mindful, and able to look beyond the surfaces."
I don't know many female Asian-American/Canadian/European Ecology/Evolution PIs, and now that I'm thinking about it, I'm hard pressed to name some.. Carol Lee, Naomi Pierce (maybe?), Tomoko Ohta... surely there must be more? I've just gone through the 1000 or so papers on my computer and the only two Asian-y female first authors that show up (other than mine) in my collection are Carol and Naomi. Hmm.
I contributed a small 'personal reflections' box to the Evolutionary Applications issue as well, and you can find it in Box 4 of the introductory article to the issue by Maren Wellenreuther and Sally Otto.
Overall, what I've learned from reading the mostly wise words from these female scientists is: surround yourself with supportive people, stay true to yourself, be passionate about your work, and have fun. Sounds good to me.