|Geophysical Lab Senior staff, 1990|
I am a member of several Old Boys Clubs. I am now old, but
have never been and will never be a boy.
What’s it like for a Girl to be part of such a Club?
How did I end up in more than one such Club?
As a woman in science in the 1970s, about 80% of my co-students
were guys. By grad school in marine science from 1974 to 1977, almost 90% were
In 1979, at the Geophysical Lab as a Staff Scientist, I
became the only female among a total of 15 staff (7%) for 30 years until Anat Shahar, a high pressure/temperature
geochemist, joined the Staff. Staff members of Carnegie’s Geophysical Lab were,
indeed, part of an Old Boys Club. At the annual Geological Society of America
meeting in San Diego in November of 1979, I felt like a freak. Prominent
geochemists came up to meet the “woman Hat Yoder had hired.” Hatten S. Yoder,
lab director and member of the National Academy of Sciences, was well known as
an old fashioned geochemist who addressed women with PhDs as “Missus” even
though they may or may not have been married. I received this treatment for
years. Until he stepped down as director, I was in an Old Boys Club, but a
What did that mean? I had to battle for suitable lab space,
argue for research funding, and accept 70 cents on the dollar for my salary. It
made me tougher, but still a member of the Club with little voice.
|Geophysical Lab: front row: staff scientists, 1991|
When Charlie Prewitt became lab director in 1986, he
recognized the slights and made sure my new lab was what I wanted and needed to
be successful. He also adjusted my salary substantially, probably to 95 cents
on the dollar. Further, Charlie gave each Senior staff scientist equal research
dollars so that I had an equal shot at internal funding. I was finally
addressed as Dr. Fogel. Some of my best work was done during his reign as
As part of Carnegie’s Old Boys Club, doors did open for me
based on the Lab’s reputation. I was treated to a pool of postdoc applicants
that was first-rate. My offers were almost always accepted. The Geophysical Lab
paid me a 12-month salary and let me figure out what to do with my time—an
When colleague George Cody was hired in 1995 to replace Tom
Hoering as an organic geochemist, Charlie had me lead the search. By changing
the lab’s climate, at least somewhat, I became a full member of the Club. My
confidence soared. I entered the international circuit as a geochemist in 2003,
when I was elected Fellow of the Geochemical Society—yet another Old Boys
Club—only the 3rd woman to join this group.
Formal recognition of one’s accomplishments by others does
wonders for a woman’s world, but also opens up a realization that she needs to
do something about gender inequalities that persist, even today. I became a
pesty, persistent voice on awards selection committees. I paid more attention
to mentoring—both women and men. I encouraged women whenever I could. It was
probably not nearly enough. I felt that I needed to keep pushing myself and
kept up a competitive research program.
|UC Merced Professors Peggy O'Day and Jessica Blois|
In 2013, I made a major move leaving the Geophysical Lab’s
Old Boys Club for a position at the University of California Merced, a startup
school in the Central Valley and a far cry from an Old Boys Club type of place.
What joy to have so many female colleagues! They were a tough bunch, having to
negotiate Merced’s growing pains, battling lab space issues and fighting to get
good grad students. I still encountered gender put-downs from some
administrators, something now considered to be sexual harassment
(Clancy et al., PNAS, 2020). In the company of students, I recognized that it
was easy for both men and women to downplay the accomplishments of women,
particularly underrepresented minority women. When searching for people to
write tenure letters, it was not easy to find women of the needed stature to
In 2019, the United States’ ultimate Old Boys Club for
scientists, the National Academy of Sciences, elected me as a member of the
Geology section, which along with the Geophysics section, represents the earth sciences.
Before joining the group, I had little idea how election to the Academy
actually happened. How was a person nominated and voted into this distinguished
I learned the process from bottom up. The details of
anyone’s election are kept secret. [I’d love to find out about mine…]
Basically, four or five members write a simple 2-page nomination with a simple
format: key papers, other awards, date of birth, and a paragraph on the
importance of a candidate’s work. Multiple secret ballots take place over the
course of a year with a few folks eventually reaching the top of a list of
notable scientists—all of whom you have heard of or know.
Since the Academy was created in 1863 by
a decree from Abraham Lincoln, only 10% of the members in earth sciences have
been women. In fact, it was not until 1986, that the first woman, Susan
Kieffer, was elected to the Geology section for her multi-disciplinary work
extending from mineral physics to river dynamics. In 1992, Susan Solomon, who
discovered the ozone hole over Antarctica, was the first woman to join the
Geophysics section at the young age of 36! In 1993, Alexandra Navrotsky (called
Mrs. Navrotsky by Hat Yoder) was the 2nd woman to be elected in the
Geology section for her work on nanogeoscience. Today, women make up roughly
20% of the earth sciences membership—some progress but nothing to crow about.
|GL Visiting Committee (circa 1986)|
This year I participated in the penultimate step in the process. I am pleased
to write that it was a process chaired by women, composed of a diverse group of
scientists who, in my opinion, were sensitive to inclusion and diversity. During
our deliberations, no one mansplained or was a jerk. I hope that what I saw is
evidence that this Old Boys Club intends to widen its membership and thereby
lose its reputation as an “Old Boys Club”.
When my husband asked me yesterday what I was blogging about
and I told him, he said, “I hate to burst your bubble, but everyone knows that
women have needed to be a part of men’s Old Boy Clubs if they were to be
recognized in science.”
I bristled at this. On reflection, of course I knew it.
I’d lived it.
And now hope for things to change for women and under represented minorities in
creating fairness going forward.
Recently, I was awarded the Viktor Moritz Goldschmidt medal
in geochemistry, the Geochemical Society’s highest honor, just the 5th
woman to receive the medal in 50 years. I was nominated by a cadre of my female
geoscience colleagues, some evidence that women can have a direct influence on
who is chosen for recognition.
the Geochemical Society’s website: “Nominations of people from underrepresented
groups are encouraged (e.g., women, non-white researchers and/or researchers
from Asia, Africa and Latin America, disabled scientists, those who have led
diversified careers, other historically minoritized groups, and intersections
|Matt McCarthy, Seth Newsome, Paul Koch, 2022|
We’re heading in the right direction.
Over the past few years, I’ve served on numerous award
committees and wrote many nomination letters for my colleagues. From what I
have seen, although gender disparities still exist, those who are choosing who
will receive recognition are all considering the impact of selecting a diverse
group. This is a good sign.
Today, Carnegie’s combined Geophysical Lab and DTM, the
Earth and Planets Laboratory, has eight women Senior staff scientists—30% of the
group—a far cry from two decades ago. Ethnic and racial diversity still remains
an elusive goal with nearly all of their Senior staff being White. Carnegie’s
next generation of earth scientists, postdoctoral fellows, however, are a very
diverse group that I hope will be the future of this lab and other earth
science departments around the world.
|with Professor Maryjo Brounce, 2017|
Making sure this crop of new intellect is nurtured and
supported properly is a challenge that those in positions of power should place
as their highest priority for a vision of the future that is inclusive,
equitable, and diverse.
No more Old Boys Clubs for science.
Let’s move on.