A father and son have a car accident and are both badly hurt. They are both taken to separate hospitals. When the boy is taken in for an operation, the surgeon (doctor) says “I cannot do the surgery because this is my son.” How is this possible‽
Many a time have I read about the “glass ceiling,” an unofficially acknowledged barrier to advancement in a profession, especially affecting women and members of minorities. Not being in the minority, the glass ceiling never resonated with me. I was, in a way, ignorant. I acknowledged the presence of the glass ceiling, but I never, as Atticus Finch would say, “…climbed into his/her skin and walked around in it.” My ignorance dissipated when I began to view this obstacle as a glass ceiling, not a glass floor.
Imagine yourself in college. It is 1938. Your area of study is chemistry, and you excel in that subject. You earn your qualifications, and you soon find yourself writing a Ph.D. thesis on the porosity of coal. After learning all there is to know about the physical chemistry of coal, you are appointed at the Laboratoire Central des Services Chimiques de l’Etat in Paris. You made it! Now, in 1946, you learn of x-ray diffraction and apply your research to the discovery of “the secret of life,” the structure of DNA. In 1951, you take an x-ray diffraction picture of a wet strand of DNA and label it “Photograph 51.”
All your work, from undergrad to the hundreds of hours of x-ray exposure needed to refine your research, led to this one photograph that would unveil the secret of life. However, with your photo, two strangers publish your research and win a Nobel Prize. You are not credited, and you die a few short years later. Thus was the life of Rosalind Franklin.
After reading of Franklin’s life, I was pissed off. Being a likely chemistry major myself, I could not fathom the frustration that Franklin must’ve endured. To have your ideas overlooked due to your gender, and not your merit, made me upset. For the first time, I was looking up at the glass ceiling, not looking down on the glass floor. The question remains, however, how do we shatter this glassy divider. The answer lies in a change of perspective. There is truth to the statement, “ignorance is bliss,” it proves why aristocrats have weak chins. The glass ceiling will exist for as long as society remains ignorant. It’s a shame that for most of the history of science, women scientists were considered taboo. However, the obstacles that women in science have overcome speak to the awesome capabilities of women scientists. Not only have they countlessly changed science and technology, they have also overcome societal norms.
However, the glass ceiling still remains. Admittedly, when I first of the riddle that prefaced this story, I was puzzled… Ultimately, I had to cheat to discover that the mother was the surgeon tending to her son. However, through point-of-view, I believe that parity may exist. All surgeons don’t have to be men. All homemakers don’t have to be women. All careers don’t have to be associated with one gender or another. Let’s shatter this glass divider. Let’s make the glass ceiling a thing of the past.
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