This Science Cheerleader may surprise you

Before Dr. Anne Petersen was founder and president of Global Philanthropy Alliance, and Corporate Officer at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and Deputy Director of the National Science Foundation, and  Founding Dean of Penn State’s College of Health and Human Development…before she authored 12 books and over 200 articles, on adolescent and gender issues, before she was the president of several scientific societies and earned all her degrees at the University of Chicago (B.A. in mathematics, M.S. in statistics, and Ph.D. in measurement, evaluation, and statistical analysis) she was (ready? set?) a college CHEERLEADER!

Dr. Petersen even coined her own Science Cheer. She told me she shares it from time time during lectures and keynote speeches. Here’s an excerpt from one of those talks:

I was very interested in mathematics and at some point got the message that this was not something that should interest a girl. I really had to fight for my place, and I will never forget the many experiences of exclusion.

I’ve realized that being a woman scientist is no different from being a women in any professional field. When I compare notes with friends who are in law or business, the issues are the same; they just use different terms. Instead of worrying about how having a family will affect their chances at getting tenure, they worry about how it will affect making partner. We worry about publish or perish; they worry about billable hours. We need to get our proposal in; they need to meet their sales quotas or their court deadlines.

In the end, the solution to our leadership lies within ourselves for ourselves. We who have climbed the steep slopes by clawing and hanging-on, should not demand this as initiation for those that follow. Rather, we need to provide a web of support, encouragement, and example. We must nurture, guide, and teach. We must reach down to girls and young women and show them a path paved with encouragement. And this effort will only be enhanced by the participation of our male colleagues.

The talk last night and this morning about the importance of cheers to bonding and inspiration in the military have led me to conclude, not with a joke but with a cheer. Like many girls and women with frustrated athletic aspirations, I was a cheerleader in high school and college. I will end with an adapted University of Chicago cheer. I’ll bet most of you didn’t even know Chicago had teams, much less cheerleaders! It goes:

Thucydides, Demosthenes, Peloponnesian Wars
X2, Y2, H2 SO4
Who for, What for, What are we for?
Women in Science!

Rock on, Dr. Petersen. Thanks for all you do!