Oct 18, 2013

Passion, tenacity and women in science

One.
As a young entrepreneur, the most common piece of advice I receive is, "you can't succeed without passion."

Total bullshit.

You don't need passion to succeed. You need tenacity.

Two.
Women drop out of science because of the pervasive idea that you do need passion to succeed.

Earlier this month, Eileen Pollack, one of the first women to earn a bachelor of science degree in Physics from Yale, wrote a reflection in the New York Times Magazine about her choice to leave science. The article sheds light on why such an overwhelming majority of promising female scientists leave the field.

Interviewing a favorite former professor, Eileen writes:
"I asked if he ever specifically encouraged any undergraduates to go on for Ph.D.'s; after all, he was now the director of undergraduate studies. But he said he never encouraged anyone to go on in math. 'It's a very hard life,' he told me. 'You need to enjoy it. There's a lot of pressure being a mathematician. The life, the culture, it's very hard.'"
With no support and few role models of the same gender, women in science overcome cultural roadblocks to success every day. Women with tenacity will succeed in any circumstances. Women with no supporters won't.

Eileen is now a professor of creative writing at the University of Michigan.

Read "Why Are There Still So Few Women in Science?" from the New York Times Magazine.

-Paige