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A Lab of One’s Own: A Personal History of Sexism in Science

November 11, 2020


Dr. Rita Colwell, Distinguished University Professor, University of Maryland at College Park and Founder of CosmosID, Inc. 
The conversation was moderated by Ambassador Shirin Tahir-Kheli, Senior Fellow, Johns Hopkins SAIS Foreign Policy Institute 

Introductory Remarks by Carla Freeman, Director, Johns Hopkins SAIS Foreign Policy Institute 

The Johns Hopkins SAIS Foreign Policy Institute's Condoleezza Rice Women Who Inspire Lecture Series hosted a discussion with nationally-respected scientist and educator, Dr. Rita Colwell on the participation of women in science and engineering.
Colwell began the conversation by recalling her background and substantial work in government, the private sector, and non-profit organizations. Colwell helped fight cholera in Bangladesh, where she helped discover how sea surface temperatures and chlorophyll could predict the location of the pathogen. She then narrated her time as the chair of the inter-agency group responsible for advising the Bush administration on the anthrax threat.
Colwell reflected on the substantial challenges she faced as a woman trying to break into the scientific field. She emphasized that she is more hopeful today than yesterday, noting that over half of doctoral students are now female, corporate boards with women are more profitable, and women today are now even able to serve on submarines. Colwell left the audience with a range of great advice indicating how society must change, not women and the importance of encouraging young women to go into Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields.