In honor of International Women and Girls in Science Day on February 11, Bloodworks Northwest’s Dr. Sherrill Slichter and Dr. Emily Fawcett spoke with KIRO-FM Radio about what it’s like to be women in science – and how adults can help more young women pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.
Below, we’ve highlighted some of their most thoughtful, motivating – and surprising – insights and advice.
For more inspiration, join us at the Pacific Science Center’s Science in the City event on Feb. 20, where Dr. Slichter will discuss her challenges and triumphs as a gender trailblazer.
Dr. Slichter is Bloodworks’ Director of Platelet Transfusion. With a career spanning more than 50 years, her platelet and blood cell clotting research is credited with making bone marrow transplantation possible, extending the lives of cancer patients around the world.
On responding to bullies: “When I went to medical school, they had restricted admissions for women, so there were only five women. This gentleman sat down next to me and recognized me as being one of his classmates. He bent over and said, ‘Do you understand that you’re taking the place of someone who could use this education?’ I really didn’t respond because what can you say? The guy was an idiot.”
On the value of educating women: “Of the five women who were there, every single one of us practiced medicine and – with the exception of a couple of us – still are practicing medicine.”
On believing in yourself: “My high school biology professor, when I wanted to take math, chemistry and physics, said ‘You can’t possibly do that, you’re going to flunk out.’ And I just said, ‘The guys are doing it, why can’t I do it?'”
On enjoying your life: “Just pick your passion. Pick what you’re interested in and go for it. . . Life is a long time. You better like what you’re doing or it’s going to seem even longer.”
Dr. Fawcett (pictured above, center) is Bloodworks’ Science Engagement Officer. A graduate of the University of Washington’s Molecular and Cellular Biology program, she is passionate about making science accessible to everyone through creative, educational pop-up events throughout Western Washington and Oregon.
On walking in the footsteps of other women: “I went to graduate school to get my PhD in molecular and cellular biology and – very different from Sherrill’s experience – my class was majority female. I think that says a lot about the path that was paved by the people who came before us.”
On finding inspiration for young girls: “Lego just came out with a Women of NASA series. In mainstream, having someone to look at – even a little Lego in a lab coat – speaks volumes.”