Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Women in Science: Colgate and Beyond

                Tuesday’s Brown Bag opened with the topic of women in the science field nationally and moved to women in science at Colgate. It was interesting to see statistics on how women who are pursuing science are doing in terms of success in their careers and what we can expect to see in the future.  This presentation was followed by a panel discussion about women’s experiences in their science careers at Colgate. The panel was made up of Colgate professors Catherine Herne, Krista Ingram, Rebecca Metzler, and Kristin Pangallo. Catherine Herne is a visiting Professor of Physics, Krista Ingram is an Assistant Professor of Biology, Rebecca Metzler is an Asssistant Professor of Physics, and Kristin Pangallo is an Assistant Professor of Chemistry. They spoke about how their interest in science began and when they decided to pursue it as a career. A few of the women had parents who were science professors themselves and cultivated their love of science while others discovered their talent while studying in undergraduate school. The professors also discussed instances of gender based discrimination they faced and lack of support from their peers. With the exception of Professor Ingram’s experience in her biology grad program, they all said they were largely outnumbered in the classroom and were at times underestimated because of their gender.
               I thought it was interesting to hear that although these women are all very accomplished and successful, they still have to re-assert their credibility at times because science still remains a largely male-dominated field. All of the members of the panels spoke highly of the mentors and advisers that they have had and highlighted the importance of forming connections and relationships with other women in the field. The professors’ discussion about the sort of comments they receive on their set forms at the end of the term was also interesting and a little disheartening. It did not surprise me that some students would underestimate how smart their Physics, Chemistry, or Bio professors are solely based on their gender, but it did surprise me that they would go as far to write it down on their evaluation forms. I think this just speaks a lack of self-awareness and privilege that those who have not experienced structural discrimination sometimes have and it was a good example of how much more work there is to be done.Overall, this was a great event and it was very interesting to hear about these professors' experiences.

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