I’m revisiting a book I previously recommended as a must read for professional women in STEM. It’s Lab Girl by Hope Jahren. Jahren is a geobotanist and speaks the language of the scientist. Her story is familiar to any woman working in a STEM field or in any field where women are a minority.
“Lab Girl” is both her autobiography and a love letter to trees. Her passion is apparent in every story she tells, as are the things, like lack of funding and sexism, that have held her back or made her path difficult.
Her observations and response to sexism are profound, but simple: “Public and private organizations all over the world have studied the mechanics of sexism within science and have concluded that they are complex and multifactorial. In my own small experience, sexism has been something very simple: the cumulative weight of constantly being told that you can’t possibly be what you are.” Lab Girl” by Hope Jahren.
She Urges Women to Believe in Themselves
On each page of her book she issues a clarion call to women urging them to be what they are and to do what they should. She asks women to follow their passion, do the work they are intended to do, work with people who understand them, believe in them and support them.
I hope that everyone, no matter their calling, can experience the success that Jahren has achieved. And I hope that the barriers to success that she was forced to climb are falling. But there are still too many women who aren’t able to stand up to those who block their way, or stumble and fall over the traps and roadblocks that are put intentionally in their way.
Like all of us Jahren is flawed. She suffers from a debilitating bipolar disorder. Her success comes despite her flaws and because of her dogged determination to follow her ideas to what ever lies ahead.
And as reviewer Ann Fabian writes in the National Book Review:
“Maybe, thanks to Jahren, the next lab girl who comes along will have an easier time making a career in science. And if curiosity-driven research gives us new ways to think about the plant world, we can all join the lab girls and raise a beaker in thanks to Jahren…”
Her determination gives an emotional boost to anyone struggling. Her book is a page-turner filled with beautiful prose, and the thrill of scientific discovery. Pick up “Lab Girl”. Then share it with young women and your colleagues.
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