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Fields & Applications Spectroscopy, Pharma & Biopharma

Making Great Strides

Honestly, it seems to me that women are making great strides in science and technical fields in terms of representation. Though we’ve not quite attained 50 percent of the demographic, I rarely feel like I’m in a gross minority and my ideas are generally taken seriously. I’ve been very lucky not to have experienced much resistance in my career, and haven’t faced discrimination often – that I am aware of.

I did have an experience recently at a conference, when an application scientist for a vendor exclusively spoke to my male colleague, who is not a scientist, even when I was answering and commenting on his technical points. The majority of the way through the conversation, he looked at me with a bit of surprise and finally said, “Oh, are you the math genius?” Being a bit startled, I replied with, “Yes. Well, the chemistry genius actually.” But that’s an exception to the rule for me; it’s the first time I have had to actively assert that I had real science knowledge.

Recommended Reads

“Why Science is Sexist”, Nicola Gaston

Nicola Gaston asks why, in a field known for unbiased and objective enquiry, there is still so much unconscious bias against women scientists.

“A Chemical Imbalance”, Polly L Arnold & Cameron Conant

Funded by the Royal Society Rosalind Franklin Award, this book and accompanying film tell the story of women scientists’ fight for equality in the field of chemistry and the underrepresentation of women in STEM. Watch the film: 

“What Works: Gender Equality by Design”, Iris Bohnet

Iris Bohnet discusses the difficulty in getting rid of unconscious bias, and provides solutions for tackling it at the organizational level.

“Lab Girl”, Hope Jahren

A memoir by geochemist and geobiologist Hope Jahren, in which she shares the highs and lows of scientific research… And explains why she felt the need for a spanner in her pocket while working in the lab at night.

I grew up in the 1980s, and distinctly remember having great women role models; for example, Sally Ride (the astronaut), my mom (who is a college professor in math and statistics), and a family friend who was a podiatrist. We need to stop telling girls that they aren’t good at (and/or that boys are better) in certain subjects), such as math and science. And that’s just the start – we also need to remove as much ‘gendering’ of interests, hobbies, and so on, as possible.

What I do and why I love it:

My current role is very dynamic; I do everything from highly technical consulting and training, to power networking at conferences, to creating marketing collateral. I love the opportunity to travel, meet interesting people, and actively use both my technical and social skills. I think the teaching/consulting may be my favorite part because I help make this really quite complicated topic (chemometrics and spectroscopy) accessible to people with all levels of technical skill. It is a great feeling to be able to directly affect someone’s career.

The Top 50 Women Power List…

Women who are already in STEM careers simply need to be more visible – and this would definitely be a good start.

A piece of advice… 

Pursue the things that interest you, because that’s what you’ll be good at, regardless of what anyone else tells you (and regardless of whether you are male or female). Also, networking is key, but don’t make a job out of it; be personable, have fun, show real interest in the people you are connecting with – as opposed to being focused on what you can get out of knowing them.

Heather Brooke is Chief Chemometrician at CAMO Software Inc. She is also Workshops Chair for SciX, and co-chair of the networking committee for Women in Science and Engineering (WISE), which supports the advancement of women in technical fields. 

Towards Meritocracy

Making Great Strides

Leaning In

An Ongoing Effort

On Balance

Beyond the ‘Old Boys Club’ 

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About the Author
Heather Brooke

Heather Brooke is Chief Chemometrician at CAMO Software Inc. She is also Workshops Chair for SciX, and co-chair of the networking committee for Women in Science and Engineering (WISE), which supports the advancement of women in technical fields.

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