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Foredraget mitt på SHE Conference 2019

I skrivende stund sitter Anders og jeg på Gardermoen! Jeg har shoppet solbriller, vi er gjennom passkontrollen, og nå sitter med en flaske bobler og venter på å boarde Norwegians rute til Bangkok ♥ Siden flere har spurt om foredraget mitt på SHE Conference som var nå på onsdag, tenkte jeg at jeg rett og slett kan dele manuset mitt her:

How to be pink, nerdy and entrepreneurial

15. of August, 2003 was a sunny day. I remember, because this was the first time I stepped into the dark, big, old, Physics Auditorium at The physics department, as a fresh physics student, at University of Oslo. I also remember wearing this tight, pink, glittery top, with my best push up bra underneath. My hair was long and very blond, in braids. I wanted to show the world – or at least the entire physics department - that it was ok to be pink AND a physics student at the same time.

It sounds easy, right? Why shouldn’t you be able to “be pink” and brainy? Pink, without judgement?

Well, it wasn’t’ easy.

My fellow students saw only the pink side of me, and after a while, I started to only see that side too. I started failing my courses – got “proof” that I was just a “stupid blonde”, I went deep down into a bad spiral of failing – feeling stupid – failing again – feeling more stupid.

I wanted to just quit, and to be honest, I don’t know why I didn’t’ – looking at my grades, quitting would have been “the right thing” to do at that time.

Luckily, for me, I’m extremely stubborn – I think I was so scared of what others would think if I admitted defeat, and quit... and somehow, I got through it. After failing five classes during my bachelors, spending more than one year more than I was supposed to, I finished my master’s in 2009.

I aced it.

I needed that master's degree and a supervisor who was extremely supportive to start to get back my self-esteem, 6 years after I first stepped into the world of academia.

Who you are today doesn’t have to define who you’ll be tomorrow – and after my masters, I got a position as a PhD scholar at the University, and I started a PINK, girly blog about nuclear physics and research and stuff.

Traditionally, scientists are viewed as boring or crazy – or, if you’re lucky, both.

The scientist in his or her white coat, safely behind a desk distancing him/her from the rest of the world, isn’t particularly inviting. He or she is someone else - someone who cannot understand real life.

We know from research into learning that feeling safe and to trust someone is fundamental to being able to learn.

In my experience – being “pink” – showing a human face -  has given me an opportunity to discuss topics that many find controversial – like nuclear power and radiation, which have been my fields of research, with all kinds of people. People who maybe wouldn’t have felt comfortable talking to scientists in the first place. Perhaps arguing that scientists are just pushing their own agenda… The pink has given me the privilege of challenging people’s views…

This isn’t really about the colour pink, of course. This is about balance, diversity, democracy. Maybe I, as a woman embracing the pink, a mother of 9 year old Alexandra – bring different perspectives into science, than the classic, male “nerd”?Research and development, is a creative process. We won’t find solutions for all, if we recruit students, researches, leaders from one tiny segment of people – and we believe that intelligence and creativity is more or less evenly distributed between the sexes, it sounds really stupid to be happy with recruiting from only one side – doesn’t it?

And we need people with different backgrounds; meaning different sexes, different ethnicities, different interests. Different hopes and dreams. Experiences, perspectives and skills! Not necessarily pink, but there should not be an opposition between being pink and being nerdy and smart!

The hard question is how we do this?

I think we need to really embrace Nikes’ JUST DO IT!

And when we see people being pink, try our best not to be judgemental (which is what we want to – me too…). Remember the stories – like mine, and do our best to look past the pink façade.

2 years ago I put on this dress, which had been hanging in my closet for nearly a year, waiting for exactly that day in March 2017. I did my hair and my make-up carefully. Then I walked into another auditorium at the University, and I defended my PhD thesis.

I proved all the people who only saw that pink part of me, including myself, wrong!

And EVERY time I talk to young girls (or guys)…I know that it matters – that my blog and my Instagram is a mixture of pink and science, because we’re human – pink and nerdy is just one of many combinations. These young people often tell me that they also have a dual side – that has made them question whether they’re SMART enough…just because they also happen to have an interest for shoes, or designer handbags, or whatever.

They tell me that seeing that it IS possible, to finish a PhD degree in physics, AND have an interest for pink and pretty things – even though you started your career in academia by failing, over and over, is making them believe that it could be possible for them as we.

That it is actually a strength for us as a society that they are people with more than just one side.


Photo: Kai T. Dragland / NTNU


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