Scientist on the realities of the workplace for women

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French lab
In this 2012 file photo, a scientist analyzes a sample in a laboratory in Grioudas, southern France.
REMY GABALDA | AFP | Getty Images file

When Nobel Laureate Tim Hunt declared several months ago that the trouble with girls in laboratories is that "you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticize them, they cry," Sarah Clatterbuck Soper wrote a stinging response:

Given this landscape, a "girl" who is lucky enough to land in a prestigious laboratory may be expected to put up with a lot to stay there. Recently, a postdoctoral fellow asked a career advice columnist with the journal Science about the problem of her mentor trying to look down her shirt. The columnist, Dr. Alice Huang, advised her not only to put up with it, but to do so with "good humor." This response engendered no small amount of furor, and was soon retracted. Despite this, I found myself thinking that Dr. Huang's counsel was regrettably sound. Getting on your mentor's bad side could ruin your career.

When female scientists come together, we invariably arrive at the same conversation. We ask "how do you do it?" usually in a whisper.

Soper, a molecular biologist, joined MPR News' Kerri Miller to talk about her New York Times op-ed titled "What It's Like as a Girl in the Lab."