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A Lab of One's Own: Overcoming Sexism in Science

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A Lab of One's Own: Overcoming Sexism in Science

Evening Program

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Thursday, January 21, 2021 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET
Code: 1A0136
This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
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Please Note: This program has an updated date (originally January 20, 2021).


  • This program is part of our Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
  • Platform: Zoom
  • Online registration is required.
  • If you register multiple individuals, you will be asked to supply individual names and email addresses so they can receive a Zoom link email. Please note that if there is a change in program schedule or a cancellation, we will notify you via email, and it will be your responsibility to notify other registrants in your group.

When Rita Colwell first applied for a graduate fellowship in bacteriology, she was told “We don’t waste fellowships on women.”  In her nearly seven decades in science, Colwell, a pioneering microbiologist and the first woman to lead the National Science Foundation, has observed everything from sexual harassment in the lab to systems that block women from pursuing their chosen specialties, leading professional organizations, or publishing their work.

Yet she, and other women, excelled despite the obstacles they faced. Drawing on her new book A Lab of One’s Own: One Woman’s Personal Journey Through Sexism in Science, Colwell examines how women successfully pushed back against the status quo—and what science gained in the process. For example, she holds that resistance gave female scientists a valuable professional insight: Often forced to change specialties many times, they came to see things in a more interdisciplinary way, which turned out to be key to making new discoveries in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Colwell also outlines a variety of actions that, if taken on the personal and professional level, she feels could reform—and vastly improve—science in America.

A Lab of One’s Own (Simon and Schuster), is available for purchase.

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Inside Science

American Women's History Initiative