We’ve heard (and written) plenty on the struggle of women to reach equal footing with men in the sciences. Now, two of the more prominent women in American science are talking up the issue before they accept their Nobel Prizes next week.
Elizabeth Blackburn and Carol Greider, along with a third American, Jack W. Szostak, won this year’s award in medicine for showing how chromosomes protect themselves as cells divide. Speaking in Sweden in advance of the award ceremony, Blackburn said the setup of scientific careers prevents more women from reaching the upper echelon. “The career structure is very much a career structure that has worked for men. But many women, at the stage when they have done their training really want to think about family . . . and they just are very daunted by the career structure. Not by the science, in which they are doing really well” [AP].
Noting that in some recent years just as many women as men started out in science, Blackburn argued that a few adjustments could help to even the career playing field. Blackburn said a more flexible approach to part-time research and career breaks would help women continue to advance their careers during their childbearing years. “I’m not talking about doing second-rate quality science, far from it,” she said. “You can do really good research when you are doing it part-time” [AP].
Only 10 women have won the medicine prize, and Blackburn and Greider are the first two women to share the award. Blackburn, Greider, and Szostak will split the approximately $1.4 million prize they’ll receive next week.
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