There was a discussion on the tweets yesterday about making hard decisions. There was lots of thread and you can find it.
The problem is not that science is particularly harder than doing other things (it’s really not, and if you love it, its fun too). Its that it sucks up your life, takes a lot of time, and is often not easily integrated with other priorities (such as those small people tugging on your hand in the grocery store).
I am sad when strong women I respect, either on the intertoobs, or in RL, decide that they would rather not do science. But, I am not sad for them, I am sad for the field which likely doesn’t appreciate what it is losing.
But, a good mentor will always support a good mentee, even when it hurts. I mentioned that I had a postdoc who recently made the same decision. Hers was a complex situation that involved children, alternative careers, a loving but demanding set of parents, and a very different culture with respect to those parents. When we sat down to talk about the situation, my PD who is normally reserved started crying. I kept trying to say that while I wasn’t living her situation, I understood, some, why she was doing this, and I really respected that. I said that I did not think worse of her for the decision. Through the snuffles she said “it would be so much easier if you would just get really mad at me”. I laughed and said “no such luck”. Our field will be poorer without her. She is very very good. My lab will be weaker without her – she was great at teaching other trainees.
But in the end, what the women’s movement was about for me, was the ability to chose. To not have roles thrust on you, with dire consequences from choices that men could make as easily as changing their ties. The will be forelashes and backlashes and sidelashes. The world will move forwards and backwards in fits and starts. The problems of women, misogyny, and dumbdoods will not be be gone before the end of my life, despite what I believed when I was 25. All I can do is make sure that my little corner of the universe is as fair and open and free as I can make it. Especially when the choices are hard.