Past Event

Kate Zernike - The Exceptions: Nancy Hopkins, MIT, and the Fight for Women in Science

September 7, 2023
11:15 AM - 12:30 PM
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Online and in-person: Benjamin Franklin Hall, 427 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Event Description

In 1963, a female student was attending a lecture given by Nobel Prize winner James Watson, then tenured at Harvard. At nineteen, she was struggling to define her future. She had given herself just ten years to fulfill her professional ambitions before starting the family she was expected to have. For women at that time, a future on the usual path of academic science was unimaginable—but during that lecture, young Nancy Hopkins fell in love with the promise of genetics. With confidence in what she believed to be the equitable and purely meritocratic field of hard science, Hopkins embarked upon a career.

In 1999, Hopkins, now a noted molecular geneticist and cancer researcher at MIT, divorced and childless, found herself underpaid and denied the credit and resources given to men of lesser rank. Galvanized by the flagrant favouritism, Hopkins led a group of sixteen women on the faculty in a campaign that prompted MIT to make the historic admission that it had long discriminated against its female scientists. Their work to highlight what they called “21st-century discrimination”—a subtle, stubborn, often unconscious bias—set off a national reckoning with the pervasive sexism in science. This talk chronicles groundbreaking science and a history-making fight for equal opportunity. 

Event Speaker

Kate Zernike, national correspondent for the New York Times

Event Information

Free and open to the public; registration required. Please visit the event webpage for additional information. Hosted by the American Philosophical Society.