A new post on Typecast’s Blognonymous popped in to my Inbox two days ago that really struck a chord. Everything the writer described I know and have felt. Then I realised that I need to tell this writer, and other fantastic fabulous women, who by virtue of being mothers have also become outcasts in the work place, my story.
I have come out the other side. Five years on, I can look back now and tell you my story, talking calmly, without shaking with anger, although I do still feel angry talking about it, I’m no longer shaking 😉
Almost exactly 3 years and 11 months ago I resigned from my job. If you read my About page there are hints of a previous life, but I have never blogged about it.
Georgia, very proudly tells people, her teachers in school, her friends, that I used to be a Scientist. She has once or twice, also asked why I’m no longer a Scientist, but thankfully, she is at that age where she is more fascinated at what Scientists do, and I have been questioned no end. Thanks also to Nina and the Neurons! To that end, we have done experiments and I have showed her bits of my previous life as a Crystallographer, but never really answered her question.
The day will come, I know, when she will want an answer to “Why are you not a Scientist any more?” and so in addition to answering that question and providing some light at the end of the tunnel for Women earlier in the Road than me, here is my, for now, 4 Part story (although I suspect I will add to it progressively later on).
The story starts almost 3 years ago, a year after I resigned.
5th of June 2008
It’s been almost exactly a year to the day that I submitted my resignation letter to the absent Professorial Head of the School of Chemistry, insisting that his secretary give me a letter acknowledging receipt of the letter.
My resignation, in the end, was not a difficult thing for me. I had reached the point where I knew I would be happier homeless and poor than having to continue to face what I had been facing.
I did however, feel a tremendous sense of injustice and to a great extent ~ failure. Failure at not fighting harder to pursue my dreams and failure at not fighting hard enough to make the academic sciences a better place for the women scientists of the future.
I have spent the best of my year trying to ‘get over it’. In truth, so much has changed for the better, (bleeding cracked fingers) stress-induced dermatitis no longer plagues each and every one of my fingers; I no longer have the dull aching pain in my neck and shoulders, products of tension and stress; I no longer curse the fact that there are only 24 hours in the day, wishing away sleep that would just take up more hours.
I now dare say, with my hand on my heart that I know my child. I am able to enjoy bright sunshine-y days with long walks and exploring creatures in the garden grass. My DH comes home most days to a ready home-cooked meal. There’s more laughter in our house and most importantly, time has become my friend.
In truth also is the fact that I have not managed to ‘get over it’. The unfairness, the injustice, the inequality, anger fills my core when I think about my experience as a ‘Woman in Science’.
The same difficult, challenging experiences faced by women in the business and corporate world is well known and well documented, owing to the number of high profile successful lawsuits and tribunal cases. In some senses, for these cases, justice probably has been more easily served as there are quantifiable measures – corporate returns, amounts of money earned for the company, transparency on pay cheques and bonuses.
In the Academia unfortunately it’s a different story. For sure research funding may well be a good measure of success but when research grant applications have a success rate of 30-ish percent; and when women are invisibly/silently pushed to carry more teaching and administrative work loads – the landscape becomes more hazy. There are less direct measures, fewer quantifiable returns.
I have thought of many ways to try to tell my story, serialize, fictionalize… but at the end of it all, it’s a true story borne of my experience. Experience I would not wish on my worst enemy, and hopefully with it’s telling it will not happen to someone else.
© 2011, Li-ling. All rights reserved.