The Untold Story – Part 4: Looking Back

So looking back, it was all part of the ‘eating salt’ process and I do very much believe we, as a family, and I, as an individual, have come out much stronger knowing very clearly now, what is important for us and to us.

Having said that, I looked back and I found this post (June 2008), questioning, questioning….

Opting Out, Leaking Out, Giving Up…The end or just the Beginning?

It had never occurred to me that I was not quite so alone in the issues I faced as a woman in a sorely male-dominated environment.

The statement above was written almost a year ago and has sat languishing in the drafts section of this soon to be resurrected blog. I often feel that I left my academic-science career not out of simple choice, but because I truly felt forcefully pushed out.

The fact that I now have a 2-year old toddler has little to do with it. The truth is, had my work environment been even mildly better I would probably still be one of those terribly guilt-ridden working mums – guilt at leaving my child in someone elses care all day everyday, and yet I would probably have felt some sense of satisfaction from my contributions to science.

I have no regrets – well, only some (we’ll come to that…) but I do enjoy my days with Georgia. When the sun is out, we put out picnic blanket in the garden and have a picnic. I have time to paint and draw and colour. We make biscuits, chocolatey-puffs, to-die-for muffins, souffle cheesecakes… in short, we have fun and I’m enjoying my time and my life now.

Looking back at my accomplishments this past year, Georgia’s out of nappies, she knows most of her alphabets and nearly all their phonetical sounds, I enjoy her company and know that we now know each other very much better; they are important acheivements and milestones in our family-life. I do sometimes wish I had other types of acheivements to list too.

Perhaps, this one year anniversary of my resignation made me nostalgic – not necessarily in a good way though, I certainly do not miss having to ‘play the game’, I do not miss feeling like I was always the ‘odd’ one (being female) and having no say and no voice. Most of all, I do not miss the fact that I hated my work environment. And yet, I feel that perhaps there is more that I could or might have done….and I suppose, in some ways, there will always be ‘what if’s’.

And so, I have decided that I will chronicle the events that led up to my leaving the academia. And while I hope that my experiences will never be repeated elsewhere, i know also, to a great extent – it is wishful thinking, for now at least….perhaps one day, it might not be.


Back to the present, and yet today, I know, it has worked out better than we can imagine, and if it helps anyone the lessons I’ve learnt are (coming!) here.

In case you’re wondering ‘leaking out’ is a term that has been used to describe, women in science, very much like myself, who for various reasons, ‘leak’ out of the science pipe. It is a phenomenon that is occurring at rather alarming rates, all over the developed world, and yet the world of Science, is an unforgiving, unrepenting  place that is slow to change.

That is not to say, women haven’t made it to the top in Science, but like in many other industries, it has been found that many (not all!) women who reach the top, ‘pull the ladder’ up behind them; and yes, they join the ranks, attitudes and become more like the very same people they fought with and against [those men (contrary to my experience, not all are bad!) at the top!].  And for me, as Allison Pearson says in her book, ‘I Don’t Know How She Does It’, “Becoming a man, is such a waste of a woman!”

© 2011, Li-ling. All rights reserved.


  • I do like that phrase: “Becoming a man is such a waste of a woman!”
    Pleased you have found some contentment in your life. These years are short, though the days seem very long some times. 🙂

    • Yes – it was like a light bulb switched on when I read the phrase!
      Oh yes…days can be sssooo long! 🙂

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