January 4th, 2008


Book: Who's afraid of Marie Curie?

Author: Linley Erin Hall

Details: (c) 2007 Linley Erin Hall; Pub Seal Press 2007; ISBN 1-58005-211-8

Verdict: Who's afraid of Marie Curie? is informative and sensible.

Reasons for reading it: I know the author, linley. This is slightly weird, actually; I've read books by people I'm connected with via LJ before, but none by people I actually know personally. I'm going to try to write a review that isn't influenced by this, but obviously, Linley will need to decide whether to read my comments or not. I'm rather relieved that I have nothing strongly critical to say.

I probably wouldn't have bothered with the book if it weren't for this personal connection, but that's mainly because I read very little non-fiction (outside work, at least) and certainly don't buy new pop science books the day they come out. I am interested in the topic of women working in science though, for fairly obvious reasons!

How it came into my hands: I bought it from Amazon, because when I was doing my big book buying spree darcydodo reminded me that the book had been released that very day.

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Just as I was reading the book, there was one of those silly privilege lists doing the rounds on LJ (I might talk about that more in another post). The combination of the two reminded me that I did indeed have a very helpful upbringing, both in terms of giving me the best chance in general and in terms of helping me to become a scientist specifically. WAMoC suggests that fathers should encourage their daughters in scientific and technical play, noting regretfully that althought it would be great if mothers did so to, in practice there are few mothers who themselves have the confidence. Well, my mother was in fact trained as a scientist, and did very much get involved in scientific play with me throughout my childhood. Not to mention that my grandmother was a doctor and in general I had at least as many female role models in technical fields as male. And on top of the kind of cultural advantages of a family that believe in education and are decently well-off, I also had the emotional advantages of sane and reasonable and loving parents, something the list doesn't cover at all.

So in fact, most of the challenges mentioned in the book don't really apply to me. Not only did I have extremely supportive and non-sexist parents, but I went to a strongly academic girls' school which gave me a good scientific background. I have never had a problem with academic confidence, or underestimating my abilities or being too much of a perfectionist to actually produce stuff. I have always had very good and not at all sexist teachers and supervisors, including if it matters a high proportion of women. I am not intending to have children or put my career second to a (thoroughly hypothetical) husband's. I'm also not American and generally live in a much less sexist milieu than that described in the book. So I would say that I have equal advantages to any male colleague, and I'm still not completely convinced I can hack it as a career scientist.
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