I feel honoured to participate in this photographic exhibition of women at Hertford College to celebrate the 40th anniversary of co-education. I was elected as a Fellow of Hertford in 1998, as the Dr Lee’s Professor of Anatomy following on from the distinguished anatomist Professor Ray Guillery, moving down the road from Keble College where I was a Fellow and Chair of Genetics.
I began my life in Oxford as a very shy undergraduate at Somerville College and enjoyed the advantages of the tutorial system which encouraged me to play to my strengths and change fields from chemistry to biology/genetics. I came from a working class, state educated background and very much share Hertford College’s commitment to provide opportunity to all potential undergraduates from any background. In 1998, Sir Walter Bodmer, an internationally renowned geneticist, was Principal at Hertford, making the welcome for me as a new Professorial Fellow very appropriate. I had succeeded Sir Walter as Professor of Genetics at Oxford some years before and I knew that Sir Walter was a great supporter of women in science.
It is amazing to reflect on how much has changed for women in my field over the years. It was only in 1917 when facilities were built in Human Anatomy at Oxford to admit the first female medical students. Women still have to fight hard to make it to the top, but it is getting easier because of awareness of the challenges and the increasing profile of successful women of which this exhibition is part.