The NIH recently announced a new publication featuring the achievements of 289 female scientists working at the institute. In the book, "Women in Science at the National Institutes of Health 2007-2008," the researchers highlight some of their greatest professional accomplishments, discuss the importance of mentoring and address the issue of "work-life balance."
The women featured have done some amazing science, but what I found most compelling were the reasons some got into their fields (for example, Vivian Pinn, MD, director of the Office of Research on Women's Health, opted for a career in medicine after watching her mom, who had been misdiagnosed with arthritis, die of metastatic bone cancer) and the barriers that many had to face in pursuing their line of work. I also appreciated the women's candor ("There is no such thing as balance," wrote one. "I am always feeling that I am shortchanging either my home family or my lab family at one time or another.") and the scientists' ability to inspire. Joan E. Bailey-Wilson, PhD, senior investigator with the Human Genome Research Institute, had a particularly upbeat message:
When I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, it was unusual for a woman to have a career. A high school guidance counselor advised me that college was a waste of time since I would “just get married and have kids.” My response was, “Why can’t I do ALL of that?” I have seen science, and our culture, change so that now my daughter (like my son) has never been told she “can’t” pursue her career of choice... I hope that young people will see that they can have a good life AND be a good scientist! You CAN do “all of that” and enjoy it!