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Carol Robinson in Nature

Carol Robinson, a professor in Chemistry at the University of Cambridge who recently moved to University of Oxford wrote an article about the dearth of women at the top of Chemistry.

A summary:

Carol Robinson describes herself as “the first female chemistry professor at both the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford, which have a combined history in chemistry of about 800 years”, which in itself is quite telling of the nature of the chemical sciences and it explains why she frequently gets asked why so many women leave chemistry at an early stage of their career. In chemistry, the attrition rate from PhD students (46% women) to professorships (6% women) is even bigger than in other traditionally male fields such as engineering and physics.

Carol did not have a traditional academic career. She left school to work in an industrial lab at 16 and eventually working her way through night-school to a point where she could start a PhD. After her PhD she took 8 years off to have her three children during a career break and then came back to a career in science. “Admittedly, after my eight-year absence, it was hard to find a position in science. I had three interviews before convincing a panel that I was committed (one interviewer remembered me positively from my student days).”

She talks about the pros and cons of being interested in dressing well and shoes as a woman in chemistry- and argues that women should not loose their femininity:  “By behaving or dressing as honorary men, we only reinforce the macho culture of chemistry”.

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