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Audio clip: Persephone talks to schools about her research but has avoided speaking at career evenings. She worries that there are not enough opportunities for researchers to progress in science and also thinks maternity leave can make the job difficult.

And do you have any messages for women who are thinking about a career in science?

It’s interesting that you say that because I’ve been offered the opportunity on several occasions to go and speak at careers evenings at my daughter’s school. It’s an all girls’ school. And I’ve been really torn about this because on the one hand I would love to go in and give an inspiring talk about how wonderful it is doing the job that I do because I really do enjoy what I do and I think it is a fantastic career. But then when I look at all the female postdocs coming through the group who are dropping out of science and I look at how hard it’s been in my career to get to where I am, I actually honestly don’t feel that I can say in all consciousness you know, to you know, to these sort of sixteen, seventeen, eighteen year olds, ‘Yes, go into a career in basic research, and you will be really happy.’ Because I think the chances that they will make it through and become a research group leader are actually very low, however bright you know, they are, you know.

So actually, I’ve always turned down requests to go and speak and what I have done instead is I’ve gone and given talks about my research where I’m basically enthusing about my science and hopefully then at least I’m a bit of a role model to you know, to girls in school who are trying to make decisions as to whether to go into this career. And I obviously always do everything I can to support all the staff in my group and other people that I mentor in other groups who may come and chat about things. But yeah, I think, I was certainly very relieved when my older daughter, you know, she’s, she’s actually gone to study medicine and you know I feel in a way that is a lot more of a secure career and you know, I can see that people can take maternity leave there and they go away and somebody else does their job [laughs].

Yes.

You know, whereas if you’ve gone away from a project, you know, no-one else is really doing it, or if someone else is doing it, they’re you know probably not doing what you would have done and you’re not the one reading the papers and taking it forward and you know it is, it is a really difficult thing.

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