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Women in Science poll responses

S L Forsburg forsburg at salk.edu
Mon Sep 30 10:21:42 EST 1996

Mark Camara <Mark.Camara at Helsinki.fi> wrote 
> > With all due respect and at the risk 
> >of being flamed, I suggest that the best way for women 
> >to succeed in science and to gain equal footing with men 
> > is to try to de-emphasize gender in all important aspects of 
> >scientific endeavor.

Mary Ann Cushman wrote:
> OK, so we should have to DENY our femininity, or cover it with
> masculine attributes to make all the men we work with more 
> comfortable? I'll believe we've made progress when women can be 
> themselves and be great scientists, too. Vive la difference!

This dialogue illustrates a usual conflict.  Mark's comments 
are typical of a lot of well-meaning people who would like to
keep gender out of it, a nice ideal (and thank you, Mark, for writing
and I hope you don't feel flamed!).  Mer's response points out
that keeping gender out of it means behaving like everyone else,
which isnt reasonable because we arent' all the same and we just
DON'T act the same.

At this point, it might be worth noting that Mark is writing from
Finland.  I don't know Finland well but I do know that most of
Scandanavia is rather enlightened on issues of gender equality.

My experiences suggest that there is a particular model of behavior
in science and an attitude amongst the holders of the status quo
that this is no big deal, we all just ought to fit that model.
Call it the Higgins viewpoint:  Why can't a woman be more like a man? 
Yet I know a LOT of people who arent comfortable with that style, men
and women both as well as people from different cultures. In my case,
I don't see why I should be expected to adhere to a very male
aggressive manner of behavior.  I'm not a man, happy to be a woman, 
and I just interact differently.  And since my manner doesnt adhere 
to the status quo, I'm at  a disadvantage.  So, we have to 
change the status quo.
Most of them aren't bad, really, just entrenched. They simply don't
realise that there are alternatives.  

So, are there problems?  Sure.  Should we in that case view evertyhing
through a glass of sexual discrimination?  Of course not.  If we
want to change things, we have to be constructive and we have to teach
the entrenched that there ARE alternatives.  

Frankly, Mark, rather than
denying gender, I wish we could enjoy it as part of the rich diversity
of science, just as we enjoy meeting scientists from other countries and
celebrating our cultural differences.  Not worse, not better, just


Susan L Forsburg PhD
MBVL, The Salk Institute
forsburg at salk.edu

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