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Kathleen Buckley kbuckley at hms.harvard.edu
Fri Mar 3 14:09:16 EST 2000

Has anyone else read the article by Maxine Singer (Shaping the Future for
Women in Science) in the February issue of the American Society for Cell
Biology news letter?  I guess I had a pretty strong negative reaction to
her proposal to solve the problem of gender balance in science.  I can't
quote the whole 3 page article, but I will quote the description of a 'new
strategy' to make 'sure that the future gets shaped to foster women's
contributions to science' since 'We have to stop expecting that our male
colleagues will change. The fact is, many of them are, understandably and
appropriately, much more concerned about their own research than about the
status of women." Substitute 'blacks' for 'women' in that sentence and see
how it reads!! Our present experience is their wives present... and their
daughters future. Why is it not appropriate for them to be concerned about
the status of women in science??? and in society in general?

"First, we must depend on ourselves to do the best science that we can: the
original, the most rigorous, the most interesting." I think that most of us
would say we are already doing that, and resent the implication that we may
not be.

"Second, we must depend on ourselves and not others to enable us to
contribute to science, and thus, to human welfare."  Isn't that what we
have been doing all along? Isn't that what everyone tells us is our
'problem' - that we are not hooked into the power network (male of course).

"Third, we must make certain that we have a substantial say in the shape of
the future."  I feel like the underlying message here is that women
scientists have been passively waiting for men to help us along, and if we
just had enough gumption, we could do anything we wanted and achieve the
same recognition as men. As long as society, and the power structure, is
white male, then the rest of us cannot simply decide to share that power.

The last straw for me was the concluding part of the article, which
suggests that women scientists should be doing research in areas that
concern 'our own agenda' - birth control, menopause, etc. 'A sound
scientific agenda, based on vital issues of concern to women, is one way to
promote the role and status of female scientists.'  I think these are
certainly great areas of research, but I don't think we want to see the
development of 'women's science' vs men's science, nor would I necessarily
want to do science if it was restricted to these areas. In fact, throughout
history, any profession which becomes dominated by women is considered less
prestigous (as an aside, a great article on this phenomenon as it relates
to women in academia on salon.com: Crashing the Top, by Ann Douglas,

While I am pulling my hair out over this article, I would be interested to
hear anyone else's reaction to it, positive or negative.

Kathy Buckley

Kathleen M. Buckley, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Neurobiology
Dept. of Neurobiology
Goldenson 502
Harvard Medical School
220 Longwood Avenue
Boston MA 02115

Tel: 617-432-2288
Fax: 617-734-7557
email: kathleen_buckley at hms.harvard.edu

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