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Women in Science



There are some seriously kick ass women scientists

There are some seriously kick ass women scientists that I know: Mandy Fisher in particular, a woman I worked with, is absolutely amazing; there’s a woman in Cambridge called Anne Ferguson-Smith who’s great; Dame Anne McLaren, whom I also worked with; these are really, really great women, but they’re not the kind of, you know, standing up, doing my TED talk, yeah, kind of thing, they are just brilliant and they will talk to you and they will listen to you and they will mentor you, and great thinkers.  But they’re not, you know, this testosterone-fuelled standing up and waving their arms around…I mean, I’m that kind of person, I’d love to do a TED talk, if anyone’s listening! 

But, you know, there are guys that will do that, who don’t have great ideas, there are guys who are quiet and thoughtful and who will talk to you; you know, my PhD supervisor, Azim Surani, he was quiet, would talk to you, he wouldn’t stand up and wave his metaphorical bits around in your face, thank goodness, but, you know, there’s a whole spectrum of people and I think just because women haven’t been very prominent in science for very long, the kind of…the big characters of women, we just haven’t seen many because there aren’t very many of them.  When you get the ones that are great, that are great communicators, will stand up, really talk about their stuff, be very charismatic, that’s brilliant, there’s some of those guys too, there’s some scientists who aren’t good at that at all.  But I would like to see more women, and certainly a lot more women on panels.

There is the problem with the whole, you know, babies, family issue and when I was a scientist it was one of the things that I thought would make life challenging; even now I don’t have a career in the lab, it’s still something that makes life very challenging and you can argue the whole thing about everything needs to be more flexible in all careers, we need to have more of a balance of men doing things, women doing things and making it socially acceptable for men and women to juggle career and family life, and when we move towards that as a society more and more, we will see the balance evening up, I hope we will.

I’ve just written a chapter for a book called “A Passion for Science”: it’s a lot of stories about great women in science and maybe stories that haven’t been told before, and the person I wrote about was Dame Anne McLaren, she was a developmental biologist, she was at the Gurdon Institute where I did my PhD and her work was incredible, it underpinned things like the development of IVF, of cloning, transgenic work, absolutely vital contributions to science and there’s others like her, Rosa Beddington, Janni Nusslein-Volhard, people who’ve made huge contributions to our understanding of developmental biology, no one would know their names but I don’t know that people would know the names of male developmental biologists either.