Why Women May Avoid Careers in Science and Technology: Part II
If I were invited back to my high school to address the current crop of Madeira girls, I sometimes wonder what I would tell them about what I’ve learned since graduating. (I’m still working on WHY I’d be invited back.) One of the things I would tell them is to pursue their passion, whether that’s STEM, music, art, whatever. Following your bliss and reveling in your element is what makes you attractive, not an outfit. I learned this lesson the hard way.
When I was 26, I got engaged to my college sweetheart, J. We were supposed to have a 2-year-long engagement. But in the last six months before our wedding, the relationship fell apart. I lost my job as a lab tech the year before, and did not get into medical school. I was focusing on finishing the classwork for my Master’s. J was getting ready to finish his Ph.D. in pharmacology at Yale, and do a 3-year postdoctoral fellowship at the National Institutes of Health in Washington, D.C.
I was crushed, needless to say. I had the ring, the dress, a killer dance band, a honeymoon to Hawai’i…everything. We decided to postpone the wedding, and that I would move to D.C. with him to try to work things out. We were supposed to move in together.
We looked at apartments, but about a month before the move, he told me he wanted to live separately in Washington, and he asked a grad school classmate to be his roommate. I found my own place to live nearby.
I even took a class at Catholic University of America to finish up my Master’s degree, AND wrote my Master’s thesis while I was in D.C. (Only I would write a Master’s thesis about cat AIDS…) I even drove back to N.J. just to give my Master’s presentation.
After about four months of living there, J. and I called it quits for good, after eight years. I lived in Washington for another two years, and had a full time job. I liked the job well enough, and the people I worked with, but I hated D.C…because I hated myself.
I hated myself because I didn’t put myself first, at a time when I should have done so. I prioritized a relationship with someone who was no longer emotionally available to me, instead of trying to determine what I wanted to do with my life, and letting love find me along the way. Now I make focusing on things I enjoy, like volunteering, my goal now; sometimes I’m successful, sometimes I’m not.
I would also tell the girls to scrap the notion that they need a man to be complete. Even today, women are more defined by their personal/romantic relationships, and how their children turn out, whereas men are defined by their academic and professional achievements. That’s wrong. If you love what you do, and cultivate a close circle of friends in this world, you are doing pretty well.
And lastly, I would share with them the concluding sentence from Halvorson’s blog: When children feel free to go against an accepted stereotype, “Only then will they feel free to go where their interests and aptitudes may take them.” I say, go forth and conquer, ladies.