Challenges and Change for Women of Color in Science – A Conversation with Evelyn Hammonds, Chair and Professor of the History of Science

HMSC Connects! Podcast Episode 15

SPEAKERS Jennifer Berglund, Professor Evelynn Hammonds

 

Jennifer Berglund 00:04

Welcome to HMSC Connects! where we go behind the scenes of four Harvard museums to explore the connections between us, our big, beautiful world, and even what lies beyond. My name is Jennifer Berglund, part of the exhibits team here at the Harvard Museums of Science and Culture, and I'll be your host. For our third episode celebrating the Women's Suffrage Centennial this month, I'm speaking with Professor Evelynn Hammonds, Chair of the Department of the History of Science at Harvard. Early in her career as a graduate student in physics at MIT, Professor Hammonds discovered more urgent questions about the lack of women, particularly Women of Color, in scientific disciplines. I wanted to ask her about her quest for answers, and how what she found might inform many of the urgent questions we are still asking today. Here she is. Professor Evelynn Hammonds, thank you so much for being here and welcome.

 

Professor Evelynn Hammonds 01:23

Thank you. Happy to be here.

 

Jennifer Berglund 01:30

So first off, tell me the story of how you decided to become a physicist.

 

Professor Evelynn Hammonds 01:37

As a young child, I was always very interested in science. I was the oldest of two girls, and my father had studied chemistry and math in college, and so he was always interested in scientific things. If I wanted a book, he would always want to buy me a science book. That was that was what I had to do to get a book out of him. And so at an early age, I was very interested in science and engineering as well. As a kid, I just had all these different kinds of science kits--I had a chemistry set, I had a microscope, I had all kinds of building kit things, and it just spurred in me an interest in wanting to understand how the world worked. As I got into high school, I found that I wasn't as interested in chemistry as much as I was in physics. I took all the physics classes I possibly could take in high school, and so it was sort of developing out of my personal interest and my Dad's support, but also, I'm also a big sci fi person, so one of my favorite shows, I'm a Trekkie. So I used to watch classic Trek, and I was very intrigued by Lieutenant Uluru, who in classic trek was the only African American on classic Trek. Watching Trek, and becoming a full time Trekkie as much as I could really solidified my interest in science in physics and thinking about alternative futures, space travel, those kinds of things.

 

Jennifer Berglund 03:01

So fast forward to college.

 

Professor Evelynn Hammonds 03:04

Yes.

 

Jennifer Berglund 03:04

You went to Spelman and then Georgia Tech.

 

Professor Evelynn Hammonds 03:07

Yes.

 

Jennifer Berglund 03:08

So what did you study there? And what was that like?

 

Professor Evelynn Hammonds 03:10

So I went to a program called the Dual Degree Program, which was a program that had been established in the early 70s. It's a five year program, so students who entered the program spent two and a half years at Spelman College or one of the other colleges in the Atlanta University Center. These are historically Black colleges. And Spelman is all Black women, one of the only historically Black colleges in the country. And then you spend two and a half years at Georgia Tech, so at the end of five years, you get two undergraduate degrees, so I studied physics at Spelman, actually, mostly I studied physics at Morehouse because there was one physics department, and Spelman College is right across the street from Morehouse College. And then when I went to Georgia Tech, I studied electrical engineering because a lot of what I liked in physics was electromagnetic theory, understanding more and more about how electricity is produced, and how it behaves under certain kinds of conditions. And so joining my physics interest with electrical engineering seemed perfect to me. And also from my sophomore and junior year in college, I went to a summer program in New Jersey. It was a summer program for minorities and women at Bell Telephone Laboratories, which was the laboratory for AT&T at the time, it's the place where the transistor was developed. I really, for the first time was able to immerse myself in physics work. We worked in labs that had state of the art equipment, we lived together on the campus of Rutgers University in dorms. So we got to do physics all day long and talk physics all night, which I'd never been able to do before. And it was really exciting, and it really, really solidified my interest in physics.

 

Jennifer Berglund 04:55

After college, you decide to get a PhD so you go to MIT.

 

Professor Evelynn Hammonds 04:59

Yes.

 

Jennifer Berglund 05:00

Studying physics, and how did your interests evolve there and why?

 

Professor Evelynn Hammonds 05:05

Well, the reason I went to MIT was both because of my advisor, Bob Birgeneau, that I knew from the Bell Labs program, but also because Shirley Jackson, who was the second African American woman to get a PhD in physics in this country, actually had come down to Spelman and recruited me to come to MIT to study physics. And from my perspective, that was an easy decision. Why would I go anywhere else, other than where the second black woman had gone to study physics? In fact, at the time, we all thought she was the first African American woman to get a PhD in physics, but actually, there was someone else in a Midwestern school who we had not heard about at that time. So for me, there was no choice. If I could get into graduate school, I was gonna go to MIT. And that's what I did. Shirley had only finished her doctorate at that time by a couple of years, and so a lot of people at MIT still knew her and remembered her, and so, often, I'd be walking down the halls and people would say, "hi, Shirley, how are you? How's your work going?" And, you know, it used to irritate me a great deal, but at some point, I just started saying, "it's fine. My work is going wonderfully well." And when I would see Shirley on occasion she

 

Jennifer Berglund 06:12

because she looked nothing alike, right?

 

Professor Evelynn Hammonds 06:13

Absolutely nothing alike. Absolutely nothing alike. I have

 

Jennifer Berglund 06:17

Terrible.

 

Professor Evelynn Hammonds 06:17

No, it's just it was just ridiculous. But instead of getting angry, I was just finally, just trying to, you know, let it go. And I would tell Shirley, I would say, "how's your work going? Because I tell everybody is fine, because they think I'm you." And she would say, "oh gee." And you know, we need to sort of shake our heads in dismay about what a silly thing it was, but there was one other African American woman in my class, but she hated the culture so much that she left in January of our first year, leaving me by myself with three African American men. So it was one African American woman, me and three African American men in our cohort of about 50 students. It was a difficult culture. Physics graduate school is difficult anyway. But for us, it was made very clear to us by some people that we didn't fit, that we didn't belong, that we were only there because of affirmative action, that we could never be successful. We were constantly finding those attitudes. And indeed, at the end of my second year, the chair of the department said to me, "well, Miss Hammonds, you seem to have settled down. We didn't understand what you were really about your first two years because you had such a big chip on your shoulder." And for me, the first two years, I just felt like I was constantly fighting to have people take me seriously. And my advisor, Bob Birgeneau, who subsequently became Dean of Science at MIT, and then Chancellor of UC Berkeley, he did everything he could to make me feel that I could do it, that I should do it. I should become a physicist, that I could become a physicist and that he supported me, and as I just said earlier, he's been a friend and mentor since I was 19 years old. He recognized the difficult culture that there was. It's not that he was unaware of it all, he wasn't trying to minimize it, but he also felt that I had to not be constantly reacting to the kinds of things that people would just say, and to try to make me feel unwelcome. And I typically didn't. But it was very hard for me to learn how not to react because some of it was just so egregious. And also, I think slowly, but surely, that kind of isolation. I mean, my three other male friends who were are doing different kinds of physics, so we shared in the classes and required classes that all graduate students had to take, we took classes together, but then we all sort of went in different directions. So we became kind of isolated from one another a little bit. But they're also lifelong friends of mine, too, so I still keep up with those guys as well. It was just a difficult time. It was very difficult for white people to believe that Black people could do science, and especially physics. It was just a very, very pervasive attitude in the field.

 

Jennifer Berglund 07:39

Yeah, and I would imagine also being now the only African American woman in that program, what were the differences, or were there differences between the experience of the African American men and your experience as an African American woman in that program?

 

Professor Evelynn Hammonds 09:11

Hmm, uh, well, I think as an African American woman, I carried the double burden, which has been referred to the literature as the double bind of being a woman and an African American in a field, at the time, where there was a lot of skepticism about the abilities of all women and people of color to actually do the work. It's like having two strikes against you. When you're constantly having to prove yourself over and over and over again. At the same time, you're in a culture where, on any given day, somebody might think you were a secretary, or a janitor, or anything but a graduate student in physics, so you had to live with that. And there were also personal issues. I mean, my family didn't really understand a lot of what I was going through, and in our communities, my other friends, we often found that people just thought, "why on earth would smart black people try to study physics?" There are so many other things that we could do that we were needed for. And so we were trying to carve a space out for ourselves to just be able to do our work and follow our passion and our interest, and the questions that made us want to do science, and especially physics, in the first place. So it was very complicated. It was very difficult. And for me, after I finished my Master's thesis, I decided to take a leave of absence because I really began to ask a lot of questions about why are there so few people of color in physics? Why are there so few women, all women, I mean, white women and women of color, in science in general, in engineering. I'm looking around MIT, where are the women? What's going on? I knew lots of people who were interested in science and engineering. Lots of women who could do well in math, and yet they weren't there, and I really wanted to understand why. And my advisor was constantly saying to me, "these aren't physics questions. Those are sociological questions." And I'd say, "but you know, for me, they are physics questions because I need to understand why I'm being treated this way in this field, and all I have to do is show up and people have put question marks above my head and think why is she here? Why is there a Black woman in the room?' It's just, it was amazing. And so, I finished my Master's thesis. To my mentor, Bob's, great dismay, I took a leave of absence, and during that time, I worked as an engineer. But I wasn't happy doing that. It wasn't fulfilling or terribly interesting to me, even though I worked on the first versions of Windows on three different kinds of machines--on IBM machines, on Microsoft machines, on other kinds of machines. I just didn't feel like I was getting at the kind of questions that I was concerned about, so that's when I applied to study the history of science, because I thought that the history of science was going to be the place where I could get the questions answered that were troubling me about the underrepresentation of people of color in science and engineering, especially in the United States. So that's why I switched fields, and went into the history of science. I still sneak in the library sometimes and see if any of my work as a physics graduate student is still being cited. Sometimes it is. So it's kind of amazing when it happens.

 

Jennifer Berglund 12:25

That's nice.

 

Professor Evelynn Hammonds 12:26

Yeah. It's a long time ago. It's a very old, very old paper, so I don't know why anybody reading them, but sometimes people do for some reason.

 

Jennifer Berglund 12:34

Well, that says something about your work.

 

Professor Evelynn Hammonds 12:37

Because I did Physics for so long, I thought I would do history of physics, and also, I would look at this whole question of the underrepresentation of women and minorities in American science. Well, turns out, those were two fields that there weren't a lot of people studying those fields. And I had no idea. You know, I've always sort of followed the questions that I'm interested in in my life, rather than whether or not they are questions many, many other people are interested in. So, when I got to Harvard, the whole sort of field of women in science and the history of women in science, and subsequently, the history of women and gender in science, were just taking off. And also, I thought that there would probably be a lot of people of color interested in that kind of question. And it turns out there weren't, so there I thought I was moving from physics where I was one of the few Black people, and moving to the history science, where I was one of the few Black people. And also, the history of physics turned out to be not as interesting to me because it was sort of like doing physics except not doing it. I just thought, "well, I'd rather be in the lab actually doing some physics and trying to figure this stuff out." And so I moved really away from doing the history of physics, which was a big loss to me, to I really wanted to understand the relationship between scientific developments, a particular societal context, sociopolitical context, in which science is done, and understand the interaction between the two. So, to try to understand the history of African Americans participation in American science, you have to understand a lot about the history of race in this country, because it's connected to the fact that America is a racially stratified society. And certain professions were closed to African Americans for so long. Similarly, if you want to understand the history of women in science, you have to understand how women were excluded from getting advanced degrees in science. And you also have to, following that, understand why does gender matter in who gets to do science? So I knew I had to learn some African American History, I had to learn history of women, I had to learn a lot about theories of gender and the emergence of gender as a category of analysis. So I started writing and researching about the history of African American women who had participated in science in the early 20th century. Then I started writing about, at the time, the AIDS epidemic had exploded, so I was interested in how epidemiologists and public health people talked about who was actually getting sick from AIDS and how people of color were being marginalized in those discussions and in the demographics and in the analysis of the epidemic. Then I did my PhD on the history of the control of diphtheria in New York City. You don't know about diptheria except for the fact that you got vaccinated for it when you had to go to school. Well, I studied how that whole business of vaccination came to be.

 

Jennifer Berglund 15:45

You were a consultant to Margot Shetterly, the author of Hidden Figures, which is a book about Black women mathematicians who were pivotal during the space race in the early days of NASA.

 

Professor Evelynn Hammonds 15:57

Yes.

 

Jennifer Berglund 15:58

Why do you think so few people are familiar with this story,

 

Professor Evelynn Hammonds 16:03

Because people don't write about Black people doing science. I mean, it's really, it really is that simple a point that there are very, very few detailed biographies of African American scientists. Margot's story starts around the end of World War Two or so. And so people just didn't realize that there were African Americans working as scientists and engineers in government laboratories like NASA. And the film, I think, does a wonderful job, which is based on the book, of showing how women in particular, white women and African American women, were also relegated to sideline positions as computers themselves. Women were computers, doing lots of calculations if they had some talent and math, but not being able to rise through the ranks to become engineers easily, or to become PhD scientists easily, and that's because of the longstanding prejudice in scientific fields against people who are of color and who are women. And so the presumption was there couldn't have possibly been any Black people working at NASA, particularly working on such important projects as the one Katherine Johnson worked on, who worked on the orbital issues related to John Glenn's flight, but I knew about this because I've been studying the history of African American women in science and engineering, and so I knew that there were more than a few African American women who had the talent to do very high level mathematics, but did not have the opportunity to do it in organizations where they were likely to be recognized and valued. In the early days, certainly in the early 20th century, a lot of women did their scientific work, and when they published, they only use their initials. So, if you're looking through, you wouldn't necessarily know that there were women. And when I did my first physics papers that I did, I signed it E.M. Hammonds, so if you didn't know that E.M. Hammonds was Evelynn Hammonds who worked for Bob Birgeneau, you didn't know I was an African American woman. Latinos, Latinas were a little bit more visible because they would often have Spanish surnames, right? But for African Americans, that wasn't the case, and for a lot of women, that wasn't the case. So it was hard to find them in the literature, number one. And number two, the assumption was, for many historians of science or biographers, there was no point in looking because they didn't believe that Black people had done anything of note in science, and so, that's why people were surprised about the story of Hidden Figures, and particularly Katherine Johnson. Margot Shetterly, I think, did an absolutely wonderful job on that story, making it interesting and compelling, and really showing how the talent of these women was simply being ignored. If anybody can think about it right now, in the midst of a pandemic, we can't afford to lose talented people who can do science. We simply cannot afford it. We need everybody who can think at the highest levels in these fields to be working to do things like create new vaccines, solve really complicated problems.

 

Jennifer Berglund 19:12

There's a particular series of scenes in Hidden Figures that I thought were really powerful and very telling where Katherine was forced to use a bathroom in a completely different building.

 

Professor Evelynn Hammonds 19:25

Yes

 

Jennifer Berglund 19:25

because there was no bathroom for "colored" women in her building. So she had to run all the way

 

Professor Evelynn Hammonds 19:32

a mile away

 

Jennifer Berglund 19:33

across campus in heels and a skirt, because that was the dress code,

 

Professor Evelynn Hammonds 19:37

Right

 

Jennifer Berglund 19:37

So every time she had to use the bathroom, she had to run. And then she would come back, and people would be asking, "where have you been? Why are you slacking on your job?" It was just really telling to me. I mean, there were a lot of things in the movie that were really powerful, but

 

Professor Evelynn Hammonds 19:51

it just says that the sex discrimination in science and engineering was built into the buildings, right? So you can even

 

Jennifer Berglund 19:59

talk about institutional racism

 

Professor Evelynn Hammonds 20:02

Right. Exactly. It's hard wired in the institutional spaces. So even when I started MIT in '76 or so, yeah. MIT at the time, there were rare buildings that had a women's bathroom on every floor. The older buildings did not. You did have to walk a while to get to, not a mile, as Katherine Johnson had to do, and that may have been slightly exaggerated for effect. But of course, there are male bathrooms on every floor. There were not female bathrooms on every floor because they didn't expect it to be a world where there were that many females. Period. And so do you compound that with what was the experience at NASA, which was segregated, not only did they not expect there to be many women who would need the bathrooms, they didn't expect there to be many women of color who needed the bathrooms. So therefore, that was built into the space itself. That was the conception of the architects. Why on earth would you have more than one bathroom every mile that women of color could use because you didn't expect there to be very many there any given time. So I think that did a wonderful job, the way they did that scene, it did a great, great job of showing how sex discrimination and race discrimination is built into the literal buildings, the infrastructure of places where science and engineering gets done.

 

Jennifer Berglund 21:27

Obviously, this is a way in which there are some parallels between your experience in academics and those of the women computers, the hidden figures like Katherine Johnson. Were there other ways that your experience you think parallels theirs?

 

Professor Evelynn Hammonds 21:43

One thing that's very compelling to me, is when she's actually, when Katherine Johnson is actually up on the ladder, working through the set of equations that turn out to be correct in predicting what kind of orbits they had to predict and plan for for that particular spaceflight. And that nobody else knew how to do it.

 

Jennifer Berglund 22:03

Yeah.

 

Professor Evelynn Hammonds 22:03

Her manager was still not making coffee every day, trying to take credit for her work, trying to keep her out of certain discussions and meetings. Those kinds of things. He was making it very clear--he did not think she should be there because she was an African American woman. In the movie, they give us a Kevin Costner guy who probably didn't want her there either, but he's the pragmatic guy. He says, "whoever can make this thing work, I want this person to work here. I want this person to be here." He's presented as less overtly prejudiced, and certainly there were people like that in engineering companies and labs and scientific labs around the country. Everybody wasn't a racist, but the structures were there such that it was easy for a person like Katherine Johnson to be marginalized, and her work not to be taken seriously. She was at a confluence of time where her most important manager really was under the gun to get that problem solved, and the kind of guy who said, "I'm gonna go with the person who can get this work done," and he had confidence in her abilities. If he hadn't had confidence in her abilities, she would have had an even more difficult time. But at the end of the story, and of course, because it's a Hollywood movie, they're gonna make it so yeah, finally, the guys come around and they realize she's really smart and she knows how to do it. A lot of times, that didn't happen. A lot of times people did not come around. A lot of times people still raised a lot of negative questions about her capacities, the capacities of a woman of color in science. Recently, in Science Magazine, an African American woman who's a Chair of a science department, wrote in an op-ed, and talked about the ways in which she was treated over the course of her career to becoming a chair of a major science department at a major university in this country. Similar kinds of things happened to her, and similar questions raised about her capacity to do The work. That's what women of color, African American women in particular, in science share, from my time over now a 40-year long career to students I meet right now because there's still too few students, women of color, who are in the quote unquote, "pipeline", which is not a word I like to use, studying science at a very high level. They're still only, probably in any major university, one or two Black women. She might find herself the only Black woman science student in her building. She might find herself having to work in study groups with white men who still question her ability to do the work. And I meet students like this all the time. The attitudes and the culture haven't changed as much as they absolutely have to, and what we're all hoping for in this moment of great reckoning in the US about race, that this will be a moment when we can push through and get people to pay attention to these issues more seriously, so that it comes a time when a Black woman wants to start physics, that people don't raise their eyes and go, "what? You can't be a Black woman and a physicist." We'd like to see that question put away once and for all.

 

Jennifer Berglund 25:13

How have you seen Harvard evolve over the course of your career, and how have you participated in that evolution?

 

Professor Evelynn Hammonds 25:22

When I went into the history of science at Harvard, I studied with Barbara Rosenkrantz, who was a professor of the history of science. She studied the history of medicine and public health. And she was the only woman faculty member in the history of science. One of her close colleagues was a biologist, Ruth Hubbard, who I also studied with, who taught a course on the biology of women. And they were two of the first women in science and history of science at Harvard, who became full professors. And they were my teachers. And that's when I went in as a graduate student, and then, over the course of time that I've been involved with Harvard since the mid 80s to the present, a great deal has changed. We have many, many more women faculty, we have a few more women of color in the sciences. Not nearly enough. There's still far too few in those fields, but in the humanities and the social sciences, the world has completely changed. There are lots of them in the department of the history of science. We now have, oh, my goodness, probably half of our faculty are women, which is, which is a big change in a generation or so. And that has come about because of external forces to Harvard. Harvard was slow to tenure women. Even in the 80s when lots of schools, lots of the Ivys and research one universities were tenuring women, but Harvard was not a leader in this at all. But, slowly but surely, has become one. And certainly there have been, as I said, external pushes and internal pushes. So, internally, there were committees on women who got together and pushed for greater numbers of women to be hired. From the outside, there's a lot of organizations of women scientists, engineers, social scientists, historians, who had, were pushing for the hiring and promotion of more women. We've had our first African American woman Chair of the Harvard History Department, which, when I started taking history courses when I came in the 80s was unheard of that you would have the Chair of Harvard History Department would have been a woman, and certainly, that it would have been an African American woman. And her name is Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham is also a winner of the National Humanities Medal that was awarded to her by President Obama. She's a very, very distinguished person. And so that is really a change. So now you have a woman of color Chair of Anthropology. You have me in the History of Science. You have Evelyn who's just finishing her term as Chair of the History Department. You have a Latina who is the chair of the English department. These things were unheard of a generation ago. And it is because the world changed outside of Harvard, and Harvard had to respond to those changes internally. And then, of course, a big piece that I was involved in is after President Larry Summers made his remarks about women being able to do math, and set off an international incident about that, and then he established two task forces, one on women faculty, one on women in science and engineering, and we put together a set of recommendations in 13 weeks, created a Office of Faculty Development and Diversity at the level of Vice Provost, which had never existed before. So I was the first Senior Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity at Harvard, where we just started plowing through all kinds of policies and practices that we had identified as hindering the progress in the promotion of women across the university. And that work continues. Each school now has people who are dedicated to ensuring that searches are done properly and widely and women are up for positions at every level. They are advertised widely. We have more support for childcare. We have more support for women taking leave because of childcare responsibilities. We have four African American women Deans--Faculty of Arts and Sciences, School of Public Health, Graduate School of Education, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Nobody would have believed that many years ago.

 

Jennifer Berglund 29:31

We are living in this strange moment right now. We have Coronavirus, but also we've had a few months that have been fraught with tragedy, and have infused us with a new sense of urgency for change. And so now the activism surrounding the Black Lives Matter Movement is reaching academia. Are you optimistic this new energy is going to spawn meaningful change? And what would that change look like?

 

Professor Evelynn Hammonds 30:00

I'm optimistic right now. It's a very important, significant moment in the history of our country to have this reckoning about race and institutional and systemic racism and white supremacy in our country. Long, long overdue, coming from the ground up, as well as the streets, as well as from the highest levels of institutions in America. I think we have to go through this, and I do hope that it's not just a moment. I do hope that everything that has been made visible right now, I hope that people don't forget. I'm hopeful that this may be a moment where we're going to move with great commitment and courage to a deeper examination of racism and white supremacy, and make some changes that will be fundamental and lasting. But we have had moments like this before, and resistance to change in American society, speaking as a historian, is very strong. So we'll see. And for me, I look at my 17 year old Son and I say, "you have got to be involved in this because this is about your future, and I'm happy to keep walking with you. We've fought our fight as my generation, but we're going to have to keep fighting for a while." This is not a time for everybody to stop and say, "yeah, we got there." No, we're not there. We have a lot of work to do. So, I'm hopeful that we can have cross-generational collaborations and coalitions, and we can have a lot of allies, and I love seeing the diversity of people who were out in the streets. So there are a lot of things to be hopeful for, but I'm also old enough to kind of worry from time to time whether or not we'll be able to achieve what we want to achieve.

 

 Jennifer Berglund 31:48 

Do you have some specific examples of, within academia, what would meaningful change look like?

 

Professor Evelynn Hammonds  31:54 

So meaningful change would look like increasing the diversity of the faculty across this country in major academic institutions. Right now, the undergraduate and graduate populations, student populations, are more diverse than the faculty. And that produces all kinds of tensions and problems and unexamined questions, and different perspectives that are not valued and made useful for the kinds of problems that we need to solve. But also, in the midst of a financial crisis, as well as the crisis that's been caused by the presence of the pandemic, universities are shrinking a little bit because of the pressures on them in the face of trying to do work in the midst of a pandemic, which is not necessarily going to be good for diversifying the faculty if people aren't hiring that many faculty. So, we still have a very diverse undergraduate and graduate school population, but we haven't gotten there yet in terms of the faculty, and that has just got to be a major priority that we cannot lose even though we're in a financially difficult time. So, that to me is the most important thing. And once you have a more diverse faculty, you'll have a more diverse curriculum, you'll have more diverse research, which will produce outcomes and solutions to longstanding problems that have been ignored.

 

 Jennifer Berglund 33:24 

How do you think we can best use this moment to encourage and nurture Black women in science?

 

 Professor Evelynn Hammonds 33:29 

So, that's, that's a great question. Because right now a lot of the Black women I know in science are feeling pretty discouraged because of the, the way the scab has been ripped off the wounds of the past with respect to really anti-Black biases. And so, if you're the only Black woman in your department right now, in a science department, and people are struggling with trying to come to terms with the history that they don't know, hadn't realized how bad it was for people. It's a difficult moment. You're trying to decide, "do I need to keep doing this work as a scientist? Maybe I should go sell real estate." I mean, this culture is so intense and has been so blind to issues of diversity for so long. And now people are coming saying, "oh, my goodness, I'm so sorry, you feel so badly. What can I do to help you?" And you say, "get some more people of color in here. That's what you can do." We're at an inflection point. We're at an inflection point. So, my concern, and the women of color that I'm in conversation with right now in the scientific, technical and medical fields, I'm saying we have to stay connected to one another. We have to build stronger networks among us and between us, we should take care of our friends and colleagues who are isolated in certain institutions, in certain departments, in certain laboratories. We have to talk to one another, and we have to keep so supporting one another in our interests in science and in the scientific world at a moment when our talents are needed so much. But we have to hold on to each other right now, so that's what we're trying to do.

 

 Jennifer Berglund 35:17 

Professor Evelyn Hammonds, thank you so much for being here today. This has been just a fantastic conversation.

 

 Professor Evelynn Hammonds 35:23 

Thank you. I really enjoyed it.

 

 Jennifer Berglund 36:21 

Today's HMSC Connects! Podcast was produced by me, Jennifer Berglund, and the Harvard Museums of Science and Culture. Special thanks to Evelynn Hammonds, and the History of Science Department for their wisdom and expertise. And thank you so much for listening! If you like today's podcast, please subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Podbean or wherever you get your podcasts. See you next week!