Parental Influence

All four of the women interviewed for this project had parents who supported them in their choice to work in STEM fields. A common trend between the four women is that their fathers all worked in STEM fields and were mentioned by the women as important influences. Though a trend of fathers might be surmised to occur due to the masculinist frame of STEM fields, the interviewees held both their parents in high esteem. The explanations correlate with research on the topic of parental influence on women in STEM. Hoferichter and Raufelder explain they found that "while for girls, mother and father support in 8th grade were associated with better grades in math and biology, for boys, neither mother nor father support were significantly related to their STEM performance." (2019, "Mothers and Fathers—Who Matters for STEM Performance?")

Dr. Kirtly Parker Jones

Dr. Kirtly Parker Jones, M.D. 

Dr. Jones discusses the significant role her father played in her early years. Her father received a Fulbright Scholarship to study geology and there was definitely the presence of early scientific influence there. She mentions how she was taught foundational biology from an early age, and after taking biochemistry she decided that medicine was the route she wanted to take.

“So if you have a dad who teaches you earth science from the time you're little, it's big. It's fascinating. All you need to do is have a little bit of information and then open your eyes and it's everywhere."

Cynthia Burrows and DNA

Dr. Cynthia Burrows posing next to a model of the DNA double helix. This is in connection with her current work in DNA. 

Dr. Cynthia Burrows, P.h.D.

When interviewed, Dr. Burrows did not mention a specific experience from one parent that inspired her to pursue science. Instead, she was able to say that she learned things from both her engineer father and her stay-at-home mother. 

“I was a skier at an early age. My brother, my older brother didn't really care for camping and canoeing and all this stuff. So I did all those things with my dad and did all of the domestic things like making  cookies with my mom, and I did all of that camping and skiing activities with my dad. So it ended up being...a nice balance to have things that I did with both my mom and my dad.”

To this day, she carries the love for outdoor activities that her father inspired. She also says this love is what made her want to back in the mountain west. While her father's STEM career may have helped in her early exposure to science, Dr. Burrows claimed that her main influence was her high school honors chemistry course.

Lisa Diamond, Ph.D 

Lisa Diamond grew up in a home in Los Angeles. Her father, a research cardiologist, took the time to talk with her and encouraged her to be involved in his work. Though she didn’t understand much at such a young age about her father's work, she did her best to engage in the conversations.

Lisa Diamond Parental Roles

“My dad started to give me copies of his academic papers and he would publish them which [were] about things that I completely did not understand, they were like statistical modeling of like cardiovascular risk factors and using like Bayesian models to predict myocardial infarction and I was like well, no I cannot, I cannot understand the sentences, dad.”


She did understand that he was hoping to create a scholarly relationship between the two of them, however. Looking back, she tells us she had “no idea what [he was] talking about, but I realized, now, that that was his way of trying to connect with me.” 

Amy Sibul, M.S. 

For Amy Sibul, her fascination with science started as a kid living in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. It was here, with this wonderful access to public lands, that Amy was able to explore and appreciate the wonders of the natural world. On top of that, her dad was a radiologist, but majored in zoology in college, and he taught her plant and animal identification. While Amy’s mother was interested in anthropology, she never pursued that, choosing instead to be a stay-at-home mom. However, Amy vividly remembers her mom telling her as a kid,

"Keep your 20s to yourself...give yourself permission to be selfish and pursue your own selfish interests before you move on to marriage and parenting.  That instilled a really powerful message in me and that is exactly what my sister and I both did."

Page researched and written by Jacqueline Cockrell, Shaistah Din, Lydia Hall, and Jack Temme.

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