And the locations are always great. I love to travel, and work is a good excuse for it. The hotels are beautiful, too. Having woken up congested one day, I was living on juice from the hotel gift shop. On the last day, as I was getting ready to leave, I went in for one more bottle of juice for the road.
As I paid, the guy behind the counter asked the common question: are you visiting for vacation or on business?
I told him that I was here for the conference that was going on.
He looked immediately surprised, and asked, "For the science conference? Are you a scientist?"
I laughed a bit, probably with a big, dopey smile on my face, and told him, yes, I am a scientist.
It's the first time someone I didn't know identified me as a "scientist," and there was something thrilling about that. He looked back at me with some mix of confusion, intrigue, and admiration. I imagine he never met someone who identified as a scientist... it also seemed very clear that his surprise might have had something to do with the fact that I am a female, was wearing makeup, and, having presented my poster that morning, was also wearing a nice dress.
It made me think of an article I read a week or two ago- about an 8-year-old girl who wanted dinosaur shoes because she likes fossils, but was told they were only for boys. The little girl wrote a letter to the shoe company, which her mom tweeted out. The company responded that the salesperson had been wrong and they are going to make more unisex options- but that's not the cool part. The cool part is that the scientific community responded. #InMyShoes shows female scientists tweeting pictures of their shoes to the little girl. One account says that her mom said, "The women tweeting photos of their shoes have even introduced her to fields of science she didn't know existed."
YES. That's why role models matter. And that's why representation matters. And that's why it feels amazing to walk out in a great dress and proudly say that I'm a scientist.
Because sometimes women in science wear boots, or steel-toed shoes. But sometimes we wear sneakers. Or stilettos. And I'm just as much of a scientist when I'm wearing a strappy pair of heels as I am in my Converse when I'm in the lab.