I’ve spent so many years now in environments where women are not the predominant gender. Even though we were 50% of women (5 out of 10) when I started my PhD, by the end it was only 20%. And this is already quite a large number in comparison to many other labs, like the 5% in the group I’ve joint recently. The past 3 years, I was sharing my office with three men, and then moved for the last 6 months in another office with two other girls.
The difference of ambiance was so striking. And so cliché. Comments, complains, smiles, so much talking… Also more relaxed and pleasant, more welcoming. And not less serious and efficient!
Then I realised how one can absorb and shape to fit into its environment. Almost an integration by assimilation. After 3 years -actually more- of manly environment, I –slightly- forgot about my own species.
How one can make any lab more welcoming to women? I always get upset when I am in a room where the smallest glove’s size is L. I always get upset when the heavy equipment is stored on the top shelf. Grey, blue, black and white: the colours of the lab. What about a little bit of light blue or yellow-green?
But I also get upset that I cannot wear nail polish when I need to use acetone. I cannot wear skirts nor nice shoes if I plan to go in the lab, so basically every weekday. I always get upset when I am swimming in the over-sized-and-without-any-shape-labcoat and when it absolutely does not cover my chest so I need to wear turtlenecks to be safe.
Guys, there are very little practical things that can be changed to carry a nicer image of women in scientific labs. And yes, we like to be pretty, to carry colours, to gossip, and that should a promoting point to attract young girls, who are very -very- sensitive to this image (but this is another issue).