Archive for the 'AcademicWomensansBabies' category

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

Response to Wimminz in Academia questions

The nefarious Hermitage apparently coerced me into being on her Wimminz in Academia panel with the promise of Doritos. I must have been asleep when that happened and all I have seen so far is day-glo orange dust that may or may not contain acrylamide. Sigh.

What the hell was this post going to be about?

Oh, the Wimminz in Academia thingy.

So, I’ve been asked to give my answers, thoughts, comments, rants, etc, about four questions that were compiled by H from the masses of questions submitted by various commenters. Keep in mind that the responses given below are solely my own opinion and are not meant to be representative of any/all female junior TT peeps. Thus, without further ado ...

1. How do you command the attention, and respect, of men in academic settings (e.g. classroom, conferences, faculty meetings)?

Interesting question and one that has been asked by some of my students. Personally, I don’t feel as though I’ve ever actually made a concerted effort to “command” attention and/or respect from male colleagues, bosses, students, etc, and, if anything, being pathologically introverted has made it even more challenging (ie impossible) to try to attempt to do this.

So assuming that I have the respect of males in academia, how did/do I manage to achieve this? Honestly, I think my work ethic has a lot to do with it. I am productive, get shit done on time, do it well and am open to constructive criticism, advice and suggestions. That being said, though, I’m no pushover and will stand up and defend my work if I believe the criticisms are unfounded.

I’ve also had two amazing mentors that are both guys and they have been instrumental in helping me negotiate this business. They never treated me any different from my male peers/colleagues just because I have ovaries and I never asked for, nor expected, any special treatment.

In terms of advice for female newbies, I have a couple of simple suggestions: (1) always be professional both in demeanor and dress, (2) be good at what you do, (3) don’t ask for special treatment just coz you’re female*, and (4) don’t try batting your eyelids to impress someone.

2. How should women dealing with a two-body problem handle assumptions that their career is secondary to their partner's?

I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer this question as I’m unattached and only ever have to look out for myself when making career decisions. However, being unqualified never prevented me from voicing an opinion on this or any other topic.

Having not been in this situation, my first reaction would be to ask if it really matters what people assume. But I know that is a naive and clueless response as this can have a material impact on one’s career.

Hmmm. I guess I don’t really think I have any advice other than to be totally fucking amazing at the work you do. Let’s face it, as women, we often have to be better than our male peers in order to achieve the same thing so this probably goes double for those with an academic for a partner. And are you advertising yourself as being part of a two-body package? If so, is it crystal clear as to how awesome your achievements are?

Told you I really didn’t have anything to contribute to this one.

3. What would you like to see from tenure-track and not-yet-tenure-track menfolk? How can they pitch in?

What I really want is for male colleagues to treat me as a peer, not as a female peer per se. When I’m at work, I want them to see an accomplished, hardworking, super-smart, kickass professional. Don’t make comments about the lack of a wedding ring on my hand or ask when I’m going to settle down and start a family. If I'm getting annoyed at a meeting, you really don't want to ask if "it's that time of the month". Believe me when I say that the last thing you want to do is piss me off.

I also get cranky when I get comments from reviewers suggesting that I get more senior colleagues to help me with my work. It’s clear from my IRL name that I am female and I’m 99% certain that those comments would not be there if my name was Billy Bob. Don’t assume that I am not competent to carry out the work simply because I have ovaries. Look at my biosketch and judge from that, not the gender associated with the name listed at the top of the page.

Sigh. That’s three from three questions for which I have nothing interesting or constructive to offer.

4. How do you deal with insinuations that you were only chosen for a position/award/etc because of affirmative action?

Haha - I don’t think anyone familiar with my background and/or current position would dare to insinuate that I received accolades or jobs simply because I was a woman. For example: in grad school, I was the only female in my lab and graduated with the most number of publications as first author, published in more respected journals than my peers and won the most number of awards. I am 100% confident that none of the guys in that cohort would ever suggest that I got any of those things because of affirmative action as they all saw the amount of blood, sweat and tears that went into my work.

I have also never actively sought awards or opportunities that were restricted to women, mostly because I wanted to avoid the You Only Got This Far Coz You Have Ovaries type of thing. But that’s just me. I don't have a problem with women that do.

Ok, so I think it’s fair to say that I don’t really have anything of any value to say on any of these topics. As other bloggers have opined in far more elegant terms than I ever could, being in academia doesn’t mean you have to lose your femininity or your right to have functioning ovaries. That’s not something you should ever have to sacrifice. Evah. Academia is a career, just like any other. Only it’s gutwrenchingly difficult and incredibly frustrating. Nevertheless, it’s what pays the bills. I love what I do but I don’t live to work. And I just don’t see that my gender has anything to do with my work. I do what I do, I do it well and I don’t need to be identified or classified as a female academic.

Hell, now I’m ranting and completely off-topic. But at least I managed to make sure that this rant contained 100% fewer babies as instructed. Take from it what you will. Or just move on to the next post in your Reader queue as it’s probably of more use than this one.

Damn, I’m tired. Is the end of the semester here yet? Can’t wait for this year to be over.

Now where are those fucking Doritos, Hermitage?

* This post is supposed to be 100% baby-free so I’m not even going near the whole pregnancy, maternity leave, breast feeding, etc, issues. As far as I’m concerned, they are a fundamental right that need to be built into academia. And every other career sector.
/public service announcement

9 responses so far