Standing Out as a Woman

Donna Dean, PhD: Standing Out as a Woman

An alternative way to approach being the only woman in a given situation.

Video Transcript

Dr. Donna Dean's Bio

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Transcript: Standing Out as a Woman

Yeah actually a couple of scenarios do occur to me. After a number of different career positions first in research at the National Institutes of Health, and then at the Food and Drug Administration in doing drug regulatory reviews, I was back at the NIH working. I was hired back into the NIH to be a scientific review administrator to create a new study section in gastroenterology, digestive diseases, because NIH did not have one at the time. There were not many women in that field and I quickly realized that when I went to my first GI meeting.

I quickly realized that: a) I stood out as a female, and a female that was on average younger than the average professional attendee. What I started doing to stand out as a woman in the field is that when I would go to those scientific meetings, I would wear either a bright red blazer, or a bright purple blazer or a bright pink blazer so I would stand out in the crowd because I very quickly learned that they young scientists, and even the more senior scientists, knew that I was the professional administrator in charge of the grant review in this area. I was easily spottable at these meetings of 12,000. So as a woman in science, I discovered that was not—so all people had to say was, "Well look for the woman in the bright red jacket."

I quickly learned after going to these meetings a couple of times that the word quickly went out, "Well, if you want to see Donna she's wearing a purple jacket today." I think sometimes as a woman, you may want to fade into the background, and I think there are sometimes that you want to bring attention to the fact that you are a female and a woman in the area because you stand out. Sometimes it can be really obvious if you're the only woman in the room -- so sometimes you want to be obvious as the only woman in the room because if you're the only woman in the room, it's going to be obvious anyway. Sometimes that can make a statement. It may be a statement you want to make. I think now, at this point, I've actually become quite comfortable with it, and, again as I say, I'm more senior in my career, and sometimes you want people to seek you out if they know you've been a mentor, or you have something got say. It makes it real easy to stand out, and what I rejoice in, you can now go to many scientific meetings in several scientific disciplines, and a conference or whatever, it's wonderful for there to be a line waiting to get into the women's room because many of us remember when you could go to these meetings and there was never a line to get in the women's room, and we rejoice in the fact that there are enough of us there that there is a line."

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