siaa_logo_blue R. Elizabeth Griffin

Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, Dominion Astrophysical Observatory

Victoria, Canada

Job Title: Post-Doc


She is an Astronomer: How many years since you got your maximum degree?

R. Elizabeth Griffin: 43 years.


SIAA: What is the most senior position you have acheived?

REG: Post-Doc (euphemistically called a Guest Worker here)

SIAA: Do you feel it was more difficult for you to get a job or a promotion in comparison with male astronomers?

REG: Yes - infinitely so.


SIAA: Are women under-represented in your institution?

REG: Yes!


SIAA: What is your family status?

REG: Married, now divorced.


SIAA: Have you had any career breaks?

REG: Only when forced to by lack of support. It was impossibly difficult to return to work in the UK. I was branded for life as a married woman who could expect to be supported by her husband and therefore did not "need" a job (regardless of what that did for my career).  It was only by escaping abroad (at age 60) that I could obtain even a short-term contract again once the UK ones were no longer awarded to me.


SIAA: How many hours per day do you normally dedicate to work?

REG: 10.


SIAA: What would most help you advance your career?

REG: (Apart from turning the clock back!) To have been viewed as an independent person and not as an appendage to an active researcher (my husband) in the same field.


SIAA: What recommendation would you make to young women starting their career in astronomy?

REG: (a) Don't change your name upon marriage.

(b) If your partner is also in astronomy, try to work in a different or complementary field if you can.  If (like me) your work teams with his, do not allow the world to see him as its chief spokesperson.

(c) Enjoy what you do, and be as fulfilling as you can!


Other related thoughts:

- There's no such word as "No".

- A drawer in a filing cabinet makes a good cradle for a young baby.

- Don't go through life thinking, "If only ...".

- Avoid the banner, "I am a woman in science and therefore a special case".  Your colleagues need to notice you for what you can do, not for who you are.

- Once you achieve a position of authority, do not be "shrill".  Women have a natural disadvantage in being heard well, so learn to project your voice rather than merely raise it.

- Even today, a career in science follows an innately male model.  Do not become, or be seen to be, a "wee-man". Retain your femininity and be yourself, but always remember that a scientific career should be genderless, that people meet and interact as people, not as sex symbols, and that sexuality is simply an ugly nuisance if allowed to penetrate.