British primatologist and anthropologist, Jane Goodall, who is considered the world’s foremost authority on chimpanzees, spoke to media website Now This about working in a male-dominated field, against prevalent norms, in the ’70s.
She started her career in Gombe, Tanzania studying chimpanzees, before travelling back to Cambridge in 1962 to earn her first degree – a PhD from Cambridge University in ethology, which is the study of animal behaviour.
Focusing on the importance of realising that humans aren’t the only beings on earth with emotions and personalities, she said, “I was told I had done everything wrong. I shouldn’t have given chimpanzees names, I should have given them numbers that were scientific. I couldn’t talk about their personalities, their minds or their emotions because those were unique to us.”
Yet, Goodall has spent over 55 years talking about the importance of empathising with animals and plants, of measuring the catastrophic human impact on the environment and curtaining it as best possible.
Her presence in the field has also inspired hundreds of women to take up science despite all odds. “Women are coming into high positions,” she told Now This. “They are bringing with themselves female qualities. And not just the male qualities. I hope they understand that qualities of compassion and love and respect are the important ones that are going to save our planet.”