Teh Wimminz in Academia Thingy Again

It seems like forever since I posted anything on this here bloggy thingy. Why? I’ve been busy. Insanely, stupid, batshit, crazy busy. Good and bad shit has been happening. Mostly good. But with some smaller bad shit thrown in.

Anyway, Her Royal Hermieness has been hassling me about participating in her Wimminz in Sciencey With No Babeez In Sight Thingy Whatever again (last years thingy is here) and has promised to send me a case of Doritos if I do it. Sigh. Unfortunately, I’m on the wagon as far as the Evil But Devilishly Tasty Corn Chip Goes. It’s been about two months now. The tremors have subsided but I’m still having weird dreams in which I’m frolicking in the woods in search of Doritos.

But enough about me. Onto the other stuff.

Hermie is going to put up a list of other suckers participants sometime so you can mosey on over to her digs and check them out.

And now for Teh Questionz:


1. Are there any suggestions about how to look professorial as a young (and young looking and smallish) TT faculty?

Does it really matter whether you look professorial or not? As long as you’re relatively neatly dressed, nobody really cares. Well, if they do, nobody has ever had the balls to say anything to me. I often get mistaken for a student by others but not by my own students (they know better than to incur my wrath). Although, with the amount of grey hair I’ve developed over the past year or so, that’s not likely to continue for too much longer unless I invest in some serious color treatment.

I’m not a girly girl and tend to dress in hiking/travel/casual clothes both at work and when tooling around town - nylon or cotton pants or cords, short-sleeved button up shirt, comfortable slip on or lace up shoes - think Outdoor Store Chic rather than Business Wear. At professional meetings, I generally wear the same clothes but will force myself to go business casual if presenting a poster and I’ve even been known to don a pants suit for an oral presentation (not my preference but sometimes you have to do it). I would avoid the types of clothing I see some of my female students wear such as low cut t-shirts, ripped jeans, shorts that show butt cheek, flip flops, etc. Save that stuff for the weekend.

If you’re not certain about what to wear, you can look around your department and see what other women of your age and status tend to prefer. If in doubt, head for business casual. Above all else though, make sure your clothes and shoes are comfortable, that you’re not likely to have a disastrous wardrobe malfunction, and that you don’t look like you just back from an all-night pub crawl. Ultimately, as long as you’re relatively neatly attired, your students and colleagues will treat you as a professional based on your demeanor and how you respond to others.


2. For those of us who like things like pink, skirts, baking, sewing, knitting, heels, makeup, and other things girlie, how important is it to not do / wear / talk about these things lest we be seen as fluffy girls who can't do Science?

I’m NOT one of these peeps so I can’t really comment on this one. But I will. You don’t need a penis and a sports jacket to be a scientist and it’s important for those both in and outside of science to understand this. If you’re someone who likes skirts, heels and makeup, you shouldn’t have to change that in order for people to take you seriously. As mentioned above, I think the way you carry yourself and the way in which you interact with others will eventually overcome any false first impressions. Ultimately, if you’re getting funded, publishing kickass research and are totes being the bright shiny star that you are, people aren’t going to give a toss about whether you are a girly girl or not. And if they do, you can wave your notice of award, annual review and/or Nobel Prize in their face and tell them exactly where they should put it.


3. What can we do when other women deny there are problems being a woman in science?

Everyone has their own experiences when it comes to this issue and I can only speak from mine. I am in a traditionally male-dominated field and my advisors, mentors and the majority of my colleagues in grad school and during my postdoc were all male - my achievements trumped all of my male peers during my doctoral and postdoctoral stints and not one of the guys would ever suggest that I did not deserve them. That being said though, I get royally pissed off when grant reviewers refer to me as “her” or “she”, particularly when used in a context such as “she needs to recruit senior colleagues to help her with the studies.” I probably read more into these statements than I should but I feel like I’ve received a pat on the head by Professor Big Swinging Dick, told that science is too hard for a girl and that I would benefit from the assistance of a senior MALE colleague.

Ok, totally getting off track now.

To address the question, I’m not sure that there is anything you can do. There ARE difficulties associated with being a woman in science. The data are clear on that. The higher you look up the career ladder in science, the higher the attrition rate for women. Trying to convince some women that there IS a problem when they are adamant that there is NOT, can be like talking to a brick wall. And will probably get you nowhere. I’ve recently had the honor of talking to several school groups about being a scientist and it’s been heartening to see an overwhelming number of girls in the group but to also be able to show them that women scientists DO exist. Forget about the denial peeps and concentrate on being a kickass scientist and a role model to the next generation of girls. Remember that there are also those that deny that Doritos are good for you. There are idiots everywhere.


4. It seems to me that often women don't have as strong professional networks as men - the kind that gets built over shared interests (sports or drinking). People seem to gravitate towards others like them. What specific advice do you have for establishing and maintaining network with men as well as other women?

I’m not sure I really have any good advice on this one either as I think I’ve been extremely lucky that my predominantly male professional network doesn’t involve pissing contests or meetings in the bar. But I think this might also because I’m a bit of an outdoor freak and can kick ALL of my mentors’ asses at everything they’ve tried to best me at (and they know it). At meetings, dinner with colleagues in a decent restaurant that doesn’t have tvs filled with sporting events and earsplitting commentary or a quiet drink at a bar is what I tend to experience.

I’m fortunate that the people I interact with and those that I would like to interact with in my field are, in general, not the types who prefer to eat lunch at Hooters. Those that are are the peeps I prefer not to associate with. I also don’t drink alcohol and if I find myself in a situation at a meeting where networking is being conducted in an alcohol-fueled gathering, I generally beg off and head back to my hotel room to watch tv and eat chocolate. If that ends up hurting my career, I’m ok with that.


Sigh. Yet another year of relatively useless information from me on these issues, I’m afraid. At least I didn’t have to talk about Teh Babeez.

11 responses so far

  • qaz says:

    "That being said though, I get royally pissed off when grant reviewers refer to me as “her” or “she”, particularly when used in a context such as “she needs to recruit senior colleagues to help her with the studies.” "

    PIT - I can tell you that this is unlikely to be gender linked. I suppose it depends on context, but it's a very common statement in grant review these days. I have heard many cases of "he needs to recruit senior colleagues to help him with this project" and "she needs to recruit senior colleagues to help her with this project". (Since English doesn't have a genderless single pronoun, we need to use he or she. Given that reviewers know the gender, wouldn't it be more upsetting to hear "he needs" for you or worse "it needs"?)

    I've seen this sometimes in R01s, where it seems to depend on training history and whether the committee trusts training from previous advisors. But I heard it a lot with NRSAs, where it is suggested that a young faculty with limited training experience get a senior faculty with more training experience as a co-sponsor. In one study section I had experience with, this was de rigueur. Thinking back, I can think of many cases where the senior colleague recruited to help (and which made it a successful grant) was a senior female colleague. My experience on study section suggests that there really isn't much of an issue about this gender-wise. (At least on the study sections I have experience with.)

  • pinus says:

    As a young TT faculty member, I always add on a senior person to grants..be it for a small percentage, or a letter of support.... it defuses the easy criticism about being too inexperienced.

  • Sigh. Perfect examples of why Hermie has the wimminz thingy running. Two comments: (1) when you assume that senior colleagues were NOT listed on the grants, you only make an ass out of you, not me and (2) read the definition of mansplaining.

  • I tend to gravitate to a mix of outdoors-wear and geek-chic. I really hope I don't have to change too much when I leave grad school (although I can probably drop computer game reference t-shirts if necessary).

  • El Picador says:

    I also have received the grant review advice to add an "expert in X" or a "more senior person". The most recent one I responded to? I added a woman expert- went over like gangbusters. It may be mansplainin' but I agree with qaz about the generic-ness of the criticism. OTOH, I agree with PiT that even the hoariest of "traditional" criticisms do not strike every applicant in the same way.

  • becca says:

    El Picador- really? You don't see a difference between "adding an expert in X would optimize effort and enable the proposed studies to be completed efficiently" and "she needs to recruit senior investigators to help her with the studies" when one already has senior colleagues listed on the grant?
    This isn't about how trite comments strike applicants. This is about grant reviewers making trite comments to boys that assume 1) their time is valuable and 2) that they are competent (albeit perhaps not in everything), vs. grant reviewers making trite comments to girls that assume 1) their time is not valuable [implicit in providing a 'suggestion' for a grant that has clearly already been addressed] and 2) they are not competent (at least not without the help of a big strong man scientist)

  • thehermitage says:

    Ok, so in summary:

    Step 1: Kick everyone's ass
    Step 2: If they give you lip, kick everyone's ass harder

    Is there any chance you could put out a dvd instructional video on ass-kicking? Much obliged!

    I can always paint Sun Chips orange to look like Doritos, if you prefer.

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  • Dr Sneetch says:

    Professor BigSwingingDick. Ha Ha. Must remember to use that.

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