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Sunday, March 8, 2015

It's hard—being a woman

It is International Women's Day and this day always makes me stop and think about what I am doing to further the cause of woman kind.

This day is important to me because I am a woman and even more so because I am the mother of two future women. It is because of them that I feel it is my responsibility to make being a woman easier.

The usual stories about unequal pay, unequal opportunity, and sexual harassment are often the talking points on International Women's Day-- but how do we as individuals fight such big culturally embedded inequities?

I don't have the answer to that but I do have an answer about how to make life better for the young women I have created-- show them the possibilities.

All of my life, any time I have started in a direction that was not what others perceived to be my path, I would meet with unconcealed doubt. Others doubting my ability has been something I have endured for decades and I am so tired of it.

This year I went back to school in science. The first response of most people when they heard that was my intention was, “That's hard,” accompanied by a pitying look that told me they thought I would not succeed.

I have faced this response anytime I have dipped my toe in scientific waters. Why is that the case? I can only imagine that the response would be different if I was a man.

There have been some few people-- most of whom were women-- who congratulated me on my choice to return to school in the sciences.

But it is the disbelief that I, a woman should attempt to enter the sciences, that I feel I am constantly fighting. Although I am happy to say a majority of my classmates are female-- I think progress is being made but the final proof is who graduates with a BSc not who starts out in the program.

I entered a BSc program because I have always had an abiding interest in how the world works. I am curious about that rock on the beach, how plastic affects reproduction, and a million other things. I also entered the program to set an example for my children; to show them that science was not something to shy away from, that their questions about the world around them could be answered and they could be the ones finding the answers. That women can do anything.

So on International Women's Day I feel I am doing my bit in my little corner of the world by by making my way along this path to scientific knowledge.

It is hard-- being a woman-- moving beyond all the doubters.

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