Thursday, February 08, 2007

Lest I Forget

Lest I forget for more than a few minutes that I am a Female Science Professor, here are some reminders I got in the past 1.5 days:

1. A male colleague asked me to speak to his female grad students about "children and careers or whatever it is females need to talk about" -- Does he get points for trying to provide a temporary mentor for his women students? I said "Don't your male students have or want families too?" Yeah, but guys don't need to talk about it.

2. A male colleague was worried about his pending NSF grant and said that the funding rates are low anyway, and by the time NSF takes care of their women and minority grant quotas, there's even less funding to go around for the rest. He doesn't consider me to be one of these women because I write excellent proposals and deserve my funding. Ummm, thanks. I bet he couldn't actually name an undeserving female or minority grant recipient, but he seems to be sure that they are out there. When confronted with the statistics for male vs. female grant recipients in our field for the last 3 years for which data are available, he had to admit that his hypothesis might be flawed.

3. A male colleague at another university explained why his department had made the somewhat surprising decision to hire a rather low-profile male candidate rather than a female candidate who seemed to be very promising: the older faculty weren't comfortable with her, thought she dressed too casually in her interview, and were worried that she'd need a more expensive lab than the male candidate. This department has no tenured or tenure-track women faculty. In general, I don't advocate a university's central administration playing more of a role in department hiring decisions, but isn't anyone paying attention at any level when departments do things like this?


Lisa said...

I've always wondered, if minorities/women are getting "all the grants" or whatever, where are they putting all this money, since they look like they have the same amount as everyone else? How could 10% of the people be taking so much from the rest--am I to believe that the 1 woman research professor in my department has more than 10 times the grant money of her colleagues? It just doesn't make sense. . . this is the same reasoning of people who see two women in the same department (of 20 or 30 people) chatting and think the women are "taking over".

Mr. B. said...

1. Cut the guy some slack. At least he knows to ask someone who can keep all the widgets in the air. I have three (count 'em three) female colleagues who have 4, 2 and 1 children and I don't know how they do that and a superb job at BigU. I have been known to send female students to visit them for a little chat.

2. Hoooonnnkkk! True there is not enough money for all the good proposals out there. But this is NOT the fault of women or minority faculty who are applying for funding.

3. Bonzo circuits blown, going down, down. Push restart.

OK, this is REALLY tiresome.

Unfortunately it happens all the time and if someone in the administration doesn't show some backbone, it will continue to happen. Some departments just don't get it. It is not the job of new faculty to make old faculty comfortable. If you aren't willing to hire female faculty members then why don't you stop admitting female students?

Mr. Bonzo, an elder chemist

Ms.PhD said...

Thank you, Mr. Bonzo. I love your suggestion that they not take women at any level if that's going to be their attitude.

re: minorities, I have to admit I sometimes wonder if it's fair. We have two young, female professors of african descent at my U. and they're neither one of them more qualified than I am, but I can't get a hand up to get a job. Not to say they don't deserve the help or the jobs, everyone deserves the help and we need them in those jobs.

But nevertheless, I have to admit that honestly, sometimes I'm jealous, watching people bend over backwards to help them.... what. Out of embarrassment or to make up for this country's past (and present) sins? The prejudice I've experienced has been pretty awful and prolonged, but it's not obvious from the color of my skin, and in fact most people don't know about the sexism, etc. I've put up with and all the psychological damage that goes along with it.

I think it's the hardest thing, striking that balance between the strength of what we've been through, and the help we're accorded in apology for how society treats us.

Nevermind the crap the men come up with while trying- pathetically- to do the right thing. "Whatever women talk about." Huh!

skinny size me please :-) said...

I thought the purpose of science is to make people uncomfortable? That a state of perpetual discomfort with the truth as we know it, drives a search for greater truth and knowledge?

Darwin made the establishment pretty uncomfortable, as did Galileo.

gs said...

FSP, you seem to be successfully avoiding unproductive anger, denial, and defeated passivity. Still, the kind of garbage you describe has to take a toll no matter how much you like your job otherwise.

I once worked in an industry that was drastically retrenching. My particular organization had great prospects but turned out to be dysfunctional. Things always seemed on the verge of improving but they never did.

After repeated heartbreaks from trying to improve things by being a good citizen, I hit on a constructive recourse. After every negative experience at work (regardless of why it was negative), I would do something, no matter how perfunctory, to look into alternatives.

These symbolic gestures quickly relieved my feeling of helplessness and restored my sense of personal autonomy. To my surprise, some of my fanciful options became credible upon closer examination. To my surprise, hypothetical possibilities gradually cohered into a plan whose risks were offset by the potential benefits. My every action, including my resignation, continued to be a response to a negative event at work.

After unforeseen adventures, today I am further along professionally than I could have gotten by standing pat. I am probably better off financially and have some prospect of becoming much better off.

Money and status matter to me, but they aren't everything. If my former workplace could somehow have been freed to grow into its potential, I'd be better off there than where I am. In the world as it is, I don't regret my decision.