When role models are super models

This week, Nature has a special section about women in science. Wait, aren’t we all just scientists? And is Nature going to have a special issue about left handed scientists next week and about Greek orthodox scientists the week after? Just kidding, I think it’s great that Nature explores how women are doing in science, in terms of salary, funding and getting tenure. Also, they have an article featuring four successful scientist, who are not only women but also have children. Awesome, you would think, to see role models that we can all look at for inspiration.
One of the women featured in this article is @kaymtye. She is an amazing kick-ass scientist who has her name on 6 (six!!) Nature papers, and now holds a position as assistant professor at MIT. Also, I learned in this article in Nature, she’s expecting her first baby. I don’t want to say anything bad about Kay, because she does great research and made an awesome career for herself (and is a break-dancer too apparently!), but what is Nature doing here?? Are they showing that sure, you can be a woman scientist and have a baby, but only after you had a decent amount of Nature papers and a TT position at a top institute? I like to look at role models around me, especially when they are female and have children, to see how they have done things, but this story makes me feel kind of incompetent and it makes me wonder whether I’ll ever get to be a kick-ass scientist without all those Nature papers before I had a baby. Am I just being jealous you might wonder? Yes, a little bit.


Filed under feminism, life in the lab, role models, working mom

11 responses to “When role models are super models

  1. Anonymous

    Excellent point! I read the article earlier and enjoyed it, but seem to remember thinking that most of the women were pretty established in their careers and just starting their families. What about the women who have babies in grad school or postdocs and still make it to TT? It would have been nice to see some women who were more like me who are trying to juggle everything and wonder if they will end up as a leaky pipe statistic. Who do people like you and I look to as a role model?


  2. Zoe

    As a left handed, Greek Orthodox, woman scientist who had a baby during my post-doc (not joking), I will be expecting a phone call from Nature very soon!!!! so excited!!!

  3. Haha that's awesome! I'm pretty sure they'll call you tomorrow!

  4. Well at least they're trying…?

  5. I got this http://www.york.ac.uk/res/chong/pdfs/MothersInScience_bk_finalWeb.pdf this morning on twitter. Has role models for nearly everyone!

  6. Dr Spouse

    The assumption seems to be you'll go back to work after about 2 minutes (because men do), spend all the time on Skype (because your baby will never cry), and then keep the baby in a playpen (because ditto, and they won't need food, or to be picked up, or played with)

  7. Anonymous

    I was also disturbed by this article and sent the link without comment to my non-academic, professional husband. He immediately translated it to waiting 4-6 more years before we have kids “because the job seems to require it”. A punch in the gut (or womb perhaps?).
    Anyway, I'm simultaneously observing the implosion of the successful male academic. Full, endowed professorships, but recently divorced, etc. So now that they found the time for life, it long since gave up on the wait. I no longer wonder why the grumpy old emeritus professor must be forcibly removed from his office to make space for new faculty.
    None of us are winning.

  8. Anonymous

    I also had a strange reaction to reading about Kay Tye: she's clearly an awesome scientist and I wish her all the best, but it made me feel like I should just give up now because I doubt I'll ever be in the league of awesome in the same way.

    It's nice to know that you can be really kick-ass and still have children etc, but it'd be nice to see some more representative examples occasionally. I also noted that there was no mention of a two body problem in her profile. I can't help feeling like this is *much* easier to solve (though never trivial) if you are a superstar than if you are good but not amazing.

    But, I'm also sure that I'm a teensy bit jealous too 😉

  9. Anonymous

    I hate to say it but Tye seems to be an excellent example for being rather the exception than the rule. Anyway, being pregnant seems quite easy to me 🙂 I'm sorry, the real challenge only starts once the baby is out there in the real world. Who cares about whether you can eat sushy or jump around… Omg, What a sacrifice.

    The statistics are clear and quite brutal, most female post-docs having a baby will never make it to a group leader position. This is mainly due to the fact that it is almost impossible to juggle the lifestyle kick-ass scientist with being a great mom at the same time. Simply, no human being can constantly work like hell and at the same time have plenty of family time. Of course, this also holds true for male post-docs. Yet, the guys seem often a bit lucky, in the respect that their partner run the home and the family while compromising on their careers so that the Y Chromosome owner can still most of the time simply focus on work.

    I think it would be nice to have some statistics on the few female professors who made it. I bet you that many of them either don't have a family. So instead of comparing men and womean only it would be interesting to know how the average distribution of female kick-ass scientists actually looks like. While these results may be quite shocking they may be a bit more realistic.

  10. They could still apologize. And they could have not doubled down on it.

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