When I was a graduate student, I was encouraged to attend a Women In Science luncheon along with a couple of other women from my department so there would be a graduate student presence. The speaker was a female professor from another institution who had just given a seminar and was guiding a discussion at this lunch event.
As an alumna of a prestigious women’s college, I’m quite familiar with the discussions surrounding minorities in science. I was incredibly disappointed, and somewhat offended, that this particular one was centered only around becoming a mom as an academic scientist. I don’t want children. I never want children. I realize a lot of women do want children, but that’s not the only thing affecting women in STEM. In fact, as I’ve gotten older, I have realized that there is a ton of bias against childless women in and out of the workplace.
I spent the entire lunch silently fuming, because I was hoping for something more than “here’s the story of how I found a work-family balance and how my colleagues supported me after I proved that I could still do science as a mom!” I really, really hate that the vast majority of people (including other women) assume that all women are concerned about getting married and having kids. True feminists know that the wife/mother life path is just as valid as the single/childless one, and that all of us will face struggles unrelated to our marital/family status, but none of those other issues were brought up. In hindsight, I really wish I’d spoken up and demanded that we discuss something other than babies. Instead, I kept my mouth shut, thinking I would sound rude and bitchy. Sound familiar?