Friday morning session of the Triological Society. Entry by election with credentials and a thesis. Still very few women, but growing slowly.
I walk in a bit late, still jet lagged. The program looks promising, the room less so. I am greeted by a sea of most male heads and dark business suits. Many bald and even more grey. An occasional coiffed head dots the landscape with a bright color rarely seen. By now, I think I should be used to it. I am not.
The speaker is giving the “Ogura Lecture”–an honor bestowed upon an esteemed member. Dr. Netterville, from Vanderbilt, did an outstanding job. Hmm, I wonder, has a women ever given the Ogura Lecture? And I wonder what Dr. Joe Ogura would think about that? (I did not know Dr. Ogura personally and never met the man. I have no idea about his gender politics.) My mind wandered as I looked for a seat to hear the first papers of the morning.
The award winners from this year’s crop of newbie members came up to the podium to present their work. To a woman (and there were 3), the presentations were exciting and worthy of their distinctions. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and hearing. But there it was–2 women tied for the Mosier award in clinical research, and another woman received the Fowler award for basic science. Incredible work, incredible odds.
I know that it really shouldn’t matter that the best work of the year came from women. But it does. Strong evidence exists that women’s research is judged more harshly than is men’s research. To have 3 women in a society that is lite on the estrogen and very heavy on the testosterone, is a breakthrough.
Swept up in the moment of hearing novel research, and from younger women colleagues whom I knew, I rushed over to congratulate……and hug, of course. I was so proud of them.
And then the fun was over. I had a tough time listening to one of my most esteemed colleagues give a paper that had so much valuable data. Unfortunately, I believe the study design, particularly the statistics, were performed incorrectly. I think the conclusions were not valid. During the discussion I stood up and said so.
Although I don’t shy away from discussion (and always love getting comments on my papers), in this case I found it a very difficult thing to do. Public presentation of one’s work is deserving of public discussion. It is hard to publicly disagree with someone’s work, especially someone you like and respect.
Maybe some of you think differently. If so, why? And how would have handled it?