I’ve never been female, but I have been Black my whole life. So let me, perhaps, offer some insight from that perspective because there are many similar social issues related to access to equal opportunity that we find in the Black community as well as the community of women in a male dominated, [corrects self] white male dominated, society.
When I look at, throughout my life, I’ve known that i wanted to do astrophysics since I was 9 years old…I got to see how the world around me reacted to my expression of these ambitions. And all I can say is, the fact that I wanted to be a scientist was hands down the path of most resistance through the forces of society.
Any time I expressed this interest, teachers would say ‘Well, don’t you want to be an athlete?’ or ‘Don’t you want to…’. I wanted to become something that was outside of the paradigms of expectation of the people in power. Fortunately, my depth of interest in the universe was SO deep and so fueled and rich that every one of these curve balls that I was thrown, and fences built in front of me, and hills that I had to climb, I just reached for more fuel and I kept going.
Now, here I am one of the most visible scientists in the land and I want to look behind me and say ‘Well where are the others who might have been this?’ and they’re not there. And I wonder what is the blood on the tracks that I happen to survive that others did not, simply because of the forces of society that prevented AT EVERY TURN, at every turn, to the point where I have security guards following me when I go through department stores, presuming that I’m a thief.
I walked out of a store one time and the alarm went off. So they came running to me. I walked through the gate at the same time a white male walked through the gate and that guy just walked off with the stolen goods, knowing that they would have stopped me and not him. That’s an interesting sort of exploitation of …
So my life experience tells me that when you don’t find Blacks in science, you don’t find women in the Sciences, I know that these forces are real and I had to survive them in order to get where I am today. So, before we start talking about genetic differences, you’ve got to come up with a system where there’s equal opportunity. THEN, we can have that conversation."