Where the Women Are Not: Alone in Higher Education.

For most of my educational life, I didn’t give much thought to how my experience might differ from that of the males in my class. In high school, my honors and AP classes all had a lot of girls. Outside of that group, it sometimes felt like boys were intimidated by smart girls. That was their problem and not mine.

There are more women going to college and graduating from college every year at all levels from undergraduate to doctoral programs. Women are certainly taking every opportunity to become better educated and more successful. Yet, that was not my experience. I imagine that the world I face was more similar to the university life around 1900 than the typical female university experience in the year 2000. I was definitely in the minority, and everyone was not happy to have me in the classroom.

Physical science majors (physics, chemistry, geology, and astronomy) are about 25% female. None of those women were in my physics classes. I literally never saw another girl in an upper-level physics class. In the year that I graduated, my class was three boys and me. I was the 25%. Yet, no other girls had graduated from the geophysics program before me, and none graduated after me. So, the 25% can be deceiving. In fact, I was alone. My experience was that scientists are pretty open-minded. Everyone thought it was cool that I liked what they liked, and nobody ever made it seem like I shouldn’t be there. Sure, it got a little weird when all the physics Ph.D. students thought I should be their girlfriend because I liked physics and was nice to them. Other than that, I never had a problem.

I didn’t run into many women in my classes or as my professors, but that didn’t bother me. I was friends with the guys in my major, and the lack of women never made me feel like I didn’t belong there. I had one female professor in my major classes. She didn’t champion me with a “girl power” talk or really encourage me in any way. She was just there doing her own thing, and I’m not even sure that she liked me all that much. So, there was no female mentoring. I came to depend on getting support and advice from men, including a great advisor.

In the end, I switched fields and switched careers in graduate school. It had to do with the career path I was on and my realization my senior year that I would not emotionally survive a doctoral program in geophysics. I ended up in a doctoral finance program. Women in 2014 made up 42.3% of business doctoral graduates. Those women, however, are mostly in fields such as management and marketing. They are not in finance. Women were 27.7% of the doctoral degrees awarded in finance in 2014. Once again, I find myself in the 25%. I was the only female admitted in the year I started, but since people hang around for several years, I did get to know other women getting doctoral finance degrees. The university usually graduated one woman per year with a finance Ph.D., which meant there were about 4 of us there at any point in time. Half of them were Chinese students. If you want to be a minority in your field, be a white woman in finance. Even worse? Be a black woman in finance. They are almost non-existent.

Business Doctorate Recipients, 2014

I didn’t have a single female professor in graduate school. Maybe that was part of the reason some of the male professors were less than welcoming of women in their classes. This was the first time in my life when I ever experienced harassment and a clear message that the male professors didn’t want me there. There were two in particular who targeted me for their attacks. Luckily, I had a great advisor and enough of an attitude to be unbothered even then. I survived and thrived, which I am sure bothers them to this day. I didn’t have a female role model or mentor in my career because they just didn’t exist. Instead, my mentors and colleagues have been men who respect me and look out for me. Sure, there are times when it would have been helpful to have another woman in my corner. Finding people who you trust, however, should always come before anything else.




Everything I Need To Know About Life I Learned From The Gilmore Girls

Are you a Gilmore Girls fan? I love that a whole new generation has gotten to know the weird and wonderful residents of Stars Hollow. I always related to Rory because she was such an academic. She was both firmly rooted by where she came from but at the same time not confined by her small town upbringing. She always knew she could be bigger than Stars Hollow. I also admired the relationship she had with her mother. Their witty bants always made me laugh and also gave me a secret desire to be a part of that too. Maybe I could be Lorelei’s adopted daughter? I never thought much about the fact that one day I would have a daughter and that we would share a similar relationship, but I am thankful for the fact that I do. I wouldn’t say that I learned how to be a mother from Lorelei, but I guess in some ways I did. I can tell you, however, that I did learn nine very important life lessons from watching Gilmore Girls.


  1. Don’t give up on your dreams. For years, Lorelei had a dream of owning an inn. She worked her way up from the bottom to the manager of an inn. She continued learning by taking business classes, and finally, she took the big step of buying her own inn. In true Lorelei fashion, it was a huge success. Lorelei passed down that same work ethic and belief in making dreams come true to Rory. From the first day we met Rory, we knew that she wanted to go to Harvard. Rory left her comfortable hometown public school to enter the world of Chilton and spent years dedicated to earning a Harvard acceptance.
  2. Allow for the fact that sometimes your dreams change. Sometimes as we are fervently working to make a dream come true, we realize the dream has changed. Over the years, what we learn and who we are changes. The process of working towards accomplishing your goals changes you. So, it’s ok to realize that along the way your goals and dreams have changed a little. Don’t be so stuck on a path that you are not willing to get off even when you know it is taking you the wrong way. Rory didn’t end up at Harvard. Her dream changed, she ended up at Yale, and her story would not have been the same if she had not kept an open mind.
  3. Always carry a book with you. One of the reasons that Rory was so well-read was that she always carried a book with her. Reading expands your knowledge about the world and helps you to understand a wide variety of cultural and literary references. There are so many times in the day when you find yourself with a spare few minutes that you probably waste playing Candy Crush (been there, done that). If you made a habit of carrying a book with you (a physical book or even an e-book or audio book on your phone or tablet), think about how you could be spending those extra minutes in a more productive way. You may not want to carry a book to a school dance like Rory did on a date with Dean, but the idea is potentially life-changing.
  4. Coffee is love, coffee is life. Coffee was the lifeblood of Lorelei’s energy. How can you be expected to be a fast-talking, witty superwoman without adequate caffeine?
  5. Smart girls rule the world. One thing that was so great about Gilmore Girls is the way it portrayed the female characters as being powerful because they were smart. Sure, Emily was a housewife, but she was also a smart woman who was never shown as being inferior to Richard. Lorelei may have had a certain amount of charisma that came with her looks, but all of her success boiled down to her intelligence. There were girls at Chilton who were pretty and not as smart, but Rory and Paris ruled over them because they were the smartest students in the class. Today we may talk about shows like Big Bang Theory making it cool to be smart, but Gilmore Girls was ahead of the curve when it came to realizing that smart is sexy.
  6. Be confident about your quirks. Lorelei is a very quirky woman, but she is always unabashedly herself. Flashbacks to high school show that even as a teenager, Lorelei realized conformity was not her style. She knows who she is and does not let the outside pressure of her family or any relationship turn her into someone she is not. We could all use more of that self-confidence and self-assurance in our lives.
  7. Live in the moment. Appreciate today for what it is and don’t get lost in planning for tomorrow. Some people call that carpe diem, other will call it yolo. Gilmore Girls taught us about in omnia paratus, or ready in all things. In omnia paratus is the motto of the life and death brigade. While I am not sure I would jump off a cliff holding an umbrella, I try to live my life following the principle that I am always prepared for the unexpected opportunity. Live your life prepared to say yes to new experiences as they come your way.
  8. Life is short, talk fast. One of the things that make Lorelei and Rory’s relationship so entertaining is their fast-paced bants. I’m not saying that you literally need to talk as fast as Lorelei (though I wish some southerners would at least try), but say the things that you need to say. You never know whether you will get another chance tomorrow or how circumstances can change. So, make sure you say all the words that need to be said every day. Don’t be afraid to say them either.
  9. Don’t let a man define your life plan. When she found out she was pregnant, Lorelei could have easily married Christopher and lived an entirely different life. Rory could have easily stayed in Stars Hollow with Dean. Those decisions, however, would have resulted in a very different and less adventurous Gilmore Girls. Society still has this notion that women should be defined by men. As a woman, society expects us to focus on finding a man, taking his name, and having children with him. I’m not saying those are not important things or that there is something wrong with wanting a family. Women, however, should not feel like that goal needs to be a priority at 18 or 20 or even 24. Your life should be defined by your personal strengths, dreams, and desires. Find a man and build a family that fits into that plan. Don’t try to make your beliefs and dreams fit into a mold that someone else made for you.

Financing the Olympic Dream

Is anyone else out there a super-fan of the Olympics? Ordinarily, I don’t spend a lot of time watching sports. When the Olympics start, however, I’m glued to the tv for two weeks. I’ll watch anything and everything. I’ve been like this since I was a kid and my friends and I would make our own flags and medals to create our own Olympic Games.

Training to be an elite athlete is a full-time job. There are multiple training sessions a day, strength training sessions, physical therapy sessions, and time spent focusing on rest and nutrition. Yet, none of those activities make the athlete any money. Actually, every single one of those people helping the athlete needs to get paid. So, how do they pay them along with all of the real-world expenses like rent, gas, and phone?

Countries like Russia and China are known for providing strong government support for Olympic athletes. The United States, however, is one of only three countries in which the government provides no financial support at all for the development of Olympic athletes. Olympic hopefuls in the United States have to depend on corporate sponsorships and appearances. While corporate sponsorships for equipment are not difficult for elite athletes, they compete against professional sports leagues and athletes for corporate sponsorship dollars. As a result, most Olympic athletes in the United States can’t depend on paying their bills with sponsorship funds. Adam Rippon’s story about stealing apples from the gym has gone viral.

Sure, we can come up with names like Lindsey Vonn (net worth around $6 million), Shaun White (net worth around $40 million), and Michael Phelps (net worth around $55 million). They, however, are the outliers even among Olympic athletes. Many depend upon support from their parents and university athletic programs. Other Olympians have a side hustle. Speed Skater Derek Parra worked at Home Depot, and Pete Fenson (curling) runs a pizzeria. Olympians have been known to have side hustles as teachers, janitors, coaches, freelancers, waiters and waitresses, and even attorneys and accountants.

Training expenses alone can easily total $100,000 per year. So, that’s tough on athletes being supported by their families and those trying to make it on their own. It’s no surprise that some Olympic athletes even resort to crowdsourcing to fund their Olympic dream. Keep all of that in mind while you enjoy the athleticism and artistry of the Olympics. Appreciate not only the physical and emotional struggles it took for them to get to this one moment but also the financial struggles they have overcome as well.