Dr. Shari Stern

As interviewed by Lyssa Lashus, March 19, 2019

Dr. Sharon Stern: In Her Own Words

Dr. Sharon Stern was born in 1946 in America and is a part of the Baby Boomer generation, meaning that she was a young woman during a time when women didn’t have many rights. She has had to face many hardships during her life such as being a working mother while earning her PhD and withstanding gender inequality, but she still managed to accomplish what she wanted out of life and became a scientist, professor, and a mother.

I had the chance to talk to Dr. Stern about how she jumped over the hurdles in her life. She talked about what it was like when the people around her didn’t understand or care about her problems and told her how she should live her life.

From your perspective it seems like gender equality, like a switch: was not there and then it was. But actually it was a real slow process with a lot of different people. When I (this was in ‘69), when I graduated from college there were only two people--two women that were biology majors as I was. To get into medical school a woman had to be much much better than a man because they thought a woman would leave medical school to get married and have children and never finish, so all the money that was spent on educating her wouldn’t--there would be no fruition for.

I did get accepted to medical school; it just happens that it was a woman who was Dean of Admissions at the University of Colorado. But, I didn’t go, I decided to go to graduate school and in part that was because my husband at the time, Hugh, was in graduate school and it wouldn’t have worked for our marriage to have me in medical school.

It was terribly hard because they made no concessions at all, none. I was the only female graduate student in my department.

When I was pregnant, even though it was obvious I was pregnant, I never told anybody I was. And then, when Jennifer was born, I, took her into my lab office. And sometimes she was just there, and sometimes she would cry and I would be taking my PhD Comprehensive Exams and all of that. But, they didn’t make any concessions at all. In fact, even when I was pregnant with my second child, which was thirteen years later, there were no concessions at all.

They told me that, when I said I wanted to teach after she was born, they said no. They didn’t think I should because I should be a mother.

“Do you think this situation has gotten better, today?”

It has because everybody is used to the fact that women work and that women are smart and that women are capable. So, yes. We were the flag bearers for it.