It is being celebrated as a big deal: this year, the National Academy of Science elected more women to it’s prestigious group than ever before. Nineteen women were elected, among 72 total, or a whopping 27%. Is there really any call for back-patting about this percentage?
Well, I guess it is a munchkin step in the right direction. Including this year’s batch, only 187 out of 2,059 Academy members are women: less than 1%.
One of the newly elected scientists, Mary-Claire King was interviewed by a reporter for The Chronicle and asked what the largest barrier was to women in science. She replied that “by far the biggest obstacle is how to have enough hours in the day to be the mother of a young child and do the work.”
King’s proposed solution to the difficulty of being a mother and being a laboratory scientist is the provision of excellent, on-site child care facilities. King practices what she preaches (and sounds like an awesome mentor). A year ago, she had three women working in her lab who were breast-feeding their infants. She bought a breast milk pump (with NIH funds) and set up a special room in the lab where these scientist-mothers could go to pump and store their milk. That way the women could keep breast-feeding after returning to work from maternity leave.