This story was first shared in the Georgia Tech News Center.
In celebration of Women's History Month, Georgia Tech highlights the onward and upward trajectory of nine women across campus who are shattering the traditional "glass ceiling" — carving a path for others and for equitable recognition, respect, and inclusion. Included in the feature are professor Audrey Duarte and alumna Valerie Montgomery Rice:
Professor, School of Psychology; Director, Memory and Aging Lab
Did you ever imagine yourself in this position?
Definitely not. My parents weren’t academics or engineers, they didn’t have the kind of careers that many of my friends in graduate school had. But I always did well in school and got into a scholarship program for first-generation students and students from underrepresented backgrounds. It helped us learn about research opportunities to prepare us for graduate school, which is something I never would have done if I hadn’t done that program.
How are you breaking the glass ceiling?
I’m bringing about change just by being visible. A person who’s Hispanic, who’s a woman, who’s a professor, who’s doing outreach and mentoring students — just doing my daily job is how I do it, even without the conscious intention of “ceiling breaking.”
How does doing your part to break the glass ceiling tie into Georgia Tech’s strategic values?
I think the strategic value of diversity resonates with me the most. Even a lot of the research in psychology has been on largely white populations, so diversifying the samples of people we study is hugely important in my work. And it’s also important to me to mentor students who are from underrepresented backgrounds. That was me 20 years ago.
In what ways do you try to lift other women up?
I mentor quite a few women in my lab, both undergraduate and graduate. I also give talks whenever I can. Earlier on, when I was in graduate school, “imposter syndrome” started for me. I didn’t share my background because I didn’t want people to see me as someone who didn’t belong there. Now I feel the opposite. I’m really transparent about that now. I made it through and here’s how I did it.
What advice do you have for other women on the way up?
It’s better than it’s ever been for women in science, and that’s wonderful. So, I would say, if this is what you love, just keep doing the hard work. And seek out mentors for yourself — they don’t have to be people in your field. That’s something I’ve done more as I’ve become more senior.
Women trailblazers making history at Tech
When Valerie Montgomery Rice, CHEM 1983, was named the sixth president of the Morehouse School of Medicine in 2014, she became the first woman to hold that title there. Montgomery Rice, who earned a medical degree from Harvard and completed her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Emory, also serves as dean of the Morehouse Medical School. A renowned infertility researcher, she was the founding director of the Center for Women’s Health Research at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. As she told Georgia Tech’s Alumni Magazine in 2020, she considers her greatest accomplishment “changing the paradigm of who can be trained in medicine.”
To learn more about all of the Georgia Tech women featured in this story, head over to the Georgia Tech News Center.