Friday, May 18, 2007

Rosalind Franklin Award Winner: Ottoline Leyser

York University biologist Ottoline Leyser has been named the 2007 Royal Society Rosalind Franklin Award winner. The award goes to an individual for "an outstanding contribution to any area of natural science, engineering or technology (SET)." In addition to demonstrating achievement in science or engineering, all nominees were required to submit a "proposal for a project that would raise the profile of women in SET in their host institution and/or field of expertise," and are expected to implement at least part of that proposal if they win.

According to the York University Press*:

Professor Leyser's nomination stated that many women are deferred from pursing a career in science because they believe it is impossible to balance it with having children.

To dispel this myth, she will assemble a collection of time lines, mapping the career paths and family lives of successful women scientists who have children, illustrating the possibility of combining career and family.
"Things are so much easier now for women than during the time that [Rosalind Franklin] was working, there is really no reason why the proportion of women pursuing research careers in science should not be 50 per cent."

She talks about her own experiences on her WISED profile:
Contrary to popular belief, you can do this job and have a life. In fact the job has very flexible hours making it relatively easy to juggle with other responsibilities. There are no rules about the exact career path to follow. People will tell you that there are, but they are wrong. For every rule you are given, there will be plenty of examples of people doing exceptionally well who have broken the “rules”.
Leyser herself "broke the rule" that you must wait until you have a permanent job to start a family.

Leyser and her lab study the role of plant hormones, such as auxin, in plant growth. She will give a public lecture on her work, and the video will be posted on the Royal Society web site .

Other Links:
*The York University Press article calls Leyser a "boffin." For some reason that makes me think of an eccentric middle-aged man wearing a pith helmet, waving a net and chasing butterflies. I guess that's not what it means.

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cf said...

Actually, Jonathan Cole's research in the 1980's demonstrated that, adjusting for all other factors, married women scientists with children were actually more productive and more frequently cited than unmarried women scientists and childless women scientists.

For men who call themselves scientists to continue to insist that women be barred from science on the basis of our childbearing capacity is simply ...unscientific.

Peggy said...

Interesting study. It seems to me the biggest problem is not men explicitly claiming women should be barred from science - at least you can point to such statements as explicit bias. Instead it's the unspoken (and perhaps unconscious) bias in judging women's achievements that requires women to work harder and produce more just to be considered on a par with their male colleagues. I believe that's especially true of women with children.