In the lab with a nursing bottle
On the 28th of November, a mini conference with the title “Science through women’s eyes” was held at the Faculty of Science of Eötvös Loránd University. The performers, who were all women with a reputable career in science behind them, encouraged the audience that was mostly composed of girls attending secondary school to not to refrain from professions typically depicted as “masculine.” Science is just as much for women as it is for men.
In the description of the event created on Facebook we can read that in early childhood the proportion of boys and girls interested in sciences is balanced. Years later, when it comes to choosing a career path, this ratio shifts drastically in favor of men. What happens eighteen years later to the little girls counting grains of sand, gazing at stars, demanding toy microscopes?
The answer is simple: society re-educates them. The idea of “masculine” and “feminine” professions (even if the overlap is getting bigger between them) is present in people’s mind even today, and we still jerk our heads up if we meet a male kindergarten teacher or a female space researcher. The best weapon against preconceptions like this is to increase the number of “rare instances.” The event took a step in this direction: it served as an example for girls interested in science and encouraged them to apply to the department of mathematics, physics, biology, computer sciences.
The following participants talked about their jobs and experiences: Dr. Anikó Kern, the meteorologist of ELTE’s Space Research Group; Dr. Zsuzsa Weiner, researcher at Prezi and research mathematician at ELTE; Dr. Mónika Fuxreiter, researcher at the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology of the University of Debrecen; and Anna Szikszay-Fábri, the IT operative of Morgan Stanley Hungary Analytics Ltd.
All of them described their work, the possible directions if someone chooses the department at which they had studied, and they depicted the potential success lying in the domains of natural sciences or information technology. They emphasized that there is a growing number of scholarships offered especially to women, and that in some cases the tendering authorities take into account that a woman’s career at the end of her twenties – beginning of her thirties may be interrupted for a longer or shorter period of time due to maternity choices. To compensate this, they extend the age limit (which is generally 35 years in the case of applications for young people) by two years per child.
And here — if we are talking about women in scientific careers — comes the eternal question: do they have to choose between family and career?
Every single participant gave a very reassuring answer: no, we don’t have to choose.
“When my daughters were born it was very important for me to stay at home with them, and this is what I did — but I did not shut everything out. For example, you can do theoretical research at home as well while your children are asleep; it’s no problem. (…) By this time I had already been working at Prezi, and in their case we could afford to communicate via Skype or, when I took my girls for a walk, over the phone. You don’t have to exclude your profession from your life, but you must always consider what the most important thing at that given moment is” – said Dr. Zsuzsa Weiner.
Dr. Anikó Kern also shared her experience in synchronizing family and professional life. “To use an indirect quote from NASA, we’ve put two little satellites on trajectory” - she said, as the picture of two babies in rompers appeared on the slide. “You don’t have to say that your career is over because of your children. (…) You can travel with them and disassemble a receiving station just the same. Now, this is the funny part of the whole thing, but you really can. With our older child I went to a conference in San Francisco, where I received full support, so my daughter could run up and down on the shore of the ocean. (…) Family and children represent a huge challenge, but you shouldn’t think of them as a disadvantage — consider it rather as an opportunity to show men how different we, women, are. I’m sure that everybody has already experienced that men have a single flow system, can do only one thing at a time contrary to women who are capable of talking on the phone while cooking, holding a baby, and checking something on the computer. We know how to benefit from this, and we must benefit from this.”
“My work has been honored with several awards, but nothing makes me as proud as my children, and nothing makes me as happy as they do. The most important thing in my life is my relationship with them, and I share with them every detail of my job that I possibly can. Apart from them, my broader family is very significant for me, too. My ultimate advice is to get a loving and supportive partner since you can do your job on such a level only if there is a loving family behind you” – emphasized Dr. Mónika Fuxreiter. The researcher also said that she defended her dissertation when she was nine months pregnant, and the child since born is ten months old now — despite its young age, the baby has already participated at ten international conferences. Let’s admit it: there aren’t too many people who can say the same about themselves.
Written by Kamilla Drubina
Translated by Mária Kenesei
Image retrieved from: Intel Free Press