Archives of Women in Science and Engineering
Special Collections Department - Archives of Women in Science and Engineering - Oral History Project
MS 379: Oral History Collection
Interview transcript, 1998
TZB: And what do you think—what issues do you think face them today? I mean obviously they are facing different issues than you probably did.
DB: It's in a different form. I think that there's not certainly as much overt discrimination but, let's face it, biology may not be destiny but it certainly sets you on a track and so the question is still, if you're going to have a traditional sort of relationship and have a family, for most people the majority of the care, the childcare still falls to the woman. As long as this is not equally shared and in some cases it can't be. I mean certainly breast feeding and things like that make it more difficult, and because of the divorce rate being so high and males not paying child support, all of this falls heavily on women. I think women just generally, I don't want to say that all women are like this and all men are like that, but nevertheless, the curves are different and I just think that women are willing to in general sacrifice more for a relationship than are men. So consequently this is going to make a discrepancy in terms of their ability to get ahead in their career and secondly, because there still is discrimination and we don't, even though we say we're going to have equal pay for equal work, there is subtle changes in how much we pay women and how much we pay men. So men generally can make better salaries and so that tends to also mean that men are going to be more likely to bring in more of the money and women are going to do more of the childcare.
I think in many fields and certainly that's true in terms of field biology, this would be a very difficult one to have a traditional family relationship. I mean I'm not married. I spend a lot of time away. It's very disruptive to me. It's disruptive to my graduate students, to my family. That's hard and friends have to accept that, but for me, being in these places with these critters is important enough that I want to do that still.
TZB: I'd like to hear more about the different places you go and what it's like to actually be out in the field.
DB: It's great! One of my problems is not being able to say no. I've got research projects going on currently in Alaska, in Argentina. This January and February I went with one of my graduate students to the Falkland Islands and so we spent a month and a half there, and this past summer I got a grant from the National Science Foundation and we were working on dovkies in Greenland, looking at stress response and hormones. My plate is overly full, but it's hard to turn those down because I recognize, too, I'm probably in the peak of my career and I won't have these opportunities for that long, and right now I've got great health and I'm interested in doing them, and so I'm pursuing them.
TZB: How long are you usually out in the field for?
DB: Depends. In Greenland we were up for two weeks because it was just a pilot project, but I hope that I will not spend much more than two weeks at a time in Greenland. I find it really interesting, but I really don't like to be gone as much. I'm gone too much right now, you know. As much as I like it, it's not like the phone quits or the Emails stop.
TZB: Right, they continue.
DB: They continue. Your life continues and you have to pay when you go home and that's the problem. If I could figure out a way that people would think that I died and things would stop when I was gone, then I probably would feel better about the traveling.
TZB: That's a really unique idea. [laughs]
DB: It doesn't happen.
TZB: All right, I'd like you to talk a little bit about what you talked about last night, which was how science can be used or misused for various purposes. For instance, for a lawsuit, such as an Exxon-Valdez, and your opinions on that.
DB: Well, I think science is simply one way of knowing and the real problem that all of us have is we come with our own set of biases. You think of science as being unbiased, but clearly we have all these cultural biases that are built in, and those lead to the kinds of questions that we ask, and because of those perceptions it can certainly color how we see the information. So it's not value free or at least not entirely. So I think that science can often give you a range of where you might want to make a decision or whatever, but it's not going to be clear cut in many scientific issues, as we might want it to be and sometimes science is not even appropriate. I mean in delineating things and I think the problem with the Exxon-Valdez oil spill, as I said last night, it's really a question of whether the glass is half full or is it half empty and if you're convinced when you see the glass that it's half empty, you see that worse than if you're convinced that the glass is half full and it might be getting fuller. It's simply the differences in our view. I mean, the glass has got the same amount of water in it, but when we describe it as half full or half empty, that takes on our cultural values, even though we all can agree that the water level is halfway.
TZB: Is the same.
DB: That's right.
TZB: When you're down at the end of your career, because you obviously have a long way to go, what would you most like to look back and say you've accomplished?
DB: That I've enjoyed it, I guess. You know, really I think that that's been my goal. If I could actually say that I saved those penguins or something, that would be really rewarding but I think it's naïve. I don't think one person's going to be able to do that. I think you might be able to help, but really I think it's to enjoy the journey. Life is short and the older I get, the more convinced I am that it's short. So I hope I really have the luxury of enjoying the journey. There are certainly days that I don't think so. [laughs]