Just returning from the ASCP 2015 conference in Long Beach, California, I can’t help but reflect on what a wonderful experience I had. The weather was picturesque, attendees at an all time high, and a variety of educational offerings and speakers on point.
The highlight for myself (and I know I am not speaking out of line when I mention the four other amazing ladies) was being recognized as ASCP’s Top Five from the 40 Under Forty program this year. I cannot begin to tell you how refreshing and energizing it is to be a part of an amazing group of five women who are all dedicated to advancement in Pathology and Laboratory Science.
To be honest, I was a little nervous going into the meeting… What would the other honorees be like? What would they think of me? Am I going to be completely out of my league there? Well let me tell you, everyone that I met was wonderful! We discussed a variety of topics, and even tossed around an idea for future collaboration.
Yes, I could go on and on about my new friends, but I think what I want to point out is that it cannot, and should not go unnoticed that the Top 5 this year consisted of all women, all WELL deserving women at that. How were we chosen? Yes, we blogged, but don’t forget that we also submitted CVs and biographies. We wrote essays as well as recorded videos (some of us spending hours re-shooting and cringing at ourselves). Not to mention, votes were cast by a dedicated panel as well as online voters. Your 40 Under Forty, including the Top Five, came from all over the country and represent various specialties in our field.
Unfortunately, at some point I had to come down from the “girl power” high. I returned to Milwaukee and thought to myself, I wonder what the ratio of men to women is in our laboratory alone? A few short minutes later, I crunched the numbers and it was easy to see that women make up 85% of laboratory staff at our organization. The totals are inclusive of all laboratory departments and shifts as well as administrative support, Pathologists, and Directors at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.
It was during these thoughts on women in science and recognition, that I remembered an article I had read quite a while back. The article had discussed how historically, women occupied most of the laboratory jobs (the strange term, “lab gals” sticks out in my mind). This was thought to be the case because it was believed that women had more patience, were more detail oriented, and therefore were trained to perform the work that doctors did not want to do. At the same time, men typically occupied the higher-level decision making positions (those that required an advanced degree, PhD, and MD). I thought to myself that even today, it sure does seem that there are more women in the laboratory profession. However, we have come a long way and are seeing an increase in women being honored for their education, professional achievements, and advancements in the field. Every single lead technologist and laboratory manager at our institution as well as the CEO of our health system currently is female. Interestingly, more than HALF of the 40 Under Forty Honorees this year are highly educated women with advanced degrees!
We all know full well that more than 70% of critical medical decisions are based on laboratory results. Therefore, if the field of laboratory professionals is made up of mostly women, it appears that our attention to detail is instrumental in making some major decisions. Yes, there still may be gender gaps when comparing men to women in academia however, what once was a field dominated by the male PhDs and MDs, appears to be shifting majorly as more and more women are making their presence known in Pathology and Laboratory Science.
I applaud everyone who was honored this year as one of ASCPs 40 Under Forty. Women are the past, present, and the future of laboratory science and medicine and it brings a little extra smile to my face to know that so many well deserving women are being recognized by ASCP this year.
-LeAnne Noll, BS, MB(ASCP)CM is a molecular technologist at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and was recognized as one of ASCP’s Top Five from the 40 Under Forty Program in 2015.