Thursday, May 29, 2008

Annual Report/1

This is not about the annual reports we have to write for grants -- though I did just write the last of several that I had to do this spring and I have some strong but uninteresting opinions about the categories of things about which we have to report to NSF. I will say that my favorite part is that when there is a box to fill in with some prose about how one's research has transformed society, infrastructure, and some other stuff, there is an option to click that says "Nothing to Report (Yet)". That "Yet" is very kind.

Should blogs have annual reports? It might not be the most interesting or controversial topic, but in looking over posts from two years ago, when I first started writing as FSP, I see some significant changes in my situation compared to now. Also, my philosophy of blogging has evolved over time, perhaps because initially I didn't have one.

Should I use an NSF annual report template for my blog annual report? No, been there/done that. I am going to adopt a more random format.

Today I will write about: What has changed in two years?

Tomorrow I will write about: My Blogosophy, such as it is.

So: What has changed in the past two years?

(1) Two years ago I had trouble being taken seriously as a professor and a scientist because I didn't "look the part". Now that I am deeper into my 40's, I think that I now look my age, though I still have a problem with not looking like the stereotypical professor/scientist owing to my gender and perhaps also to second-order characteristics -- e.g., lack of eyeglasses, general appearance (color/style of hair, style of clothes etc.).

Even so, the fact that I have been active in my profession and field for so long has given me increasing stature, and the incidences in which I am not taken seriously or in which I am specifically discriminated against owing to my gender have decreased noticeably in the space of 2 years. Unfortunately, the decrease is from a relatively high frequency and has not diminished to the extent of being rare.

(2) I was angrier two years ago. Some of the things that made me angry have been resolved by a change in academic administration; by having other options for professor-jobs at other universities; and by the positive resolution of some situations that were beyond my control but that significantly impacted my work/life. I dealt with other things that used to make me quite angry by deciding to focus more on the parts of my job that I really enjoy -- research, teaching -- and not let obnoxious colleagues and administrative issues dominate my emotional state so much.

This blog has definitely helped with how I feel about negative interactions with obnoxious colleagues. When they do something particularly obnoxious, instead of just feeling angry and thwarted, I write about it and this gives me a more positive perspective on the situation.

Deciding to focus on research and teaching might not sound like a difficult decision, and in the end it wasn't, but it meant giving up on caring about having a leadership role in my department/university, something no/few women have achieved and something that I used to think was an important goal. After thinking about it a lot, and writing about it some, I reached my current state of mind about this issue because I realized that I can have more of an impact by being a successful scientist and educator, and that this is what I am best at and enjoy the most.

I am glad that there are some women who are interested in administrative leadership positions and who excel at such important work, but I think it is also important for some women to be active and visible scientists, and that is the route I am taking with my career. This doesn't rule out my changing my mind later, but for now, I am pleased with the directions my career has taken in recent years.

Those are the Big Two in terms of changes in the past two years: I've aged (in years and appearance) and I'm less angry. There are probably others, but I have written nearly 500 posts (this is 496, to be exact) and an exhaustive reading of the archives would be .. exhausting.

To anyone who has read any (or all) of this blog, thanks for reading.


Dame Eleanor Hull said...

I think I've read all of it, thanks to your archives, and have found it fascinating. Before I moved into the humanities, I was in a "hard" discipline as an undergrad, and gave up partly because of the attitudes of most of my male teachers. I just couldn't see spending my life dealing with that, which might just mean I didn't love the field enough. Through your blog, I get some idea of what I missed--and what I don't miss.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing. It's been an informative pleasure reading about some of the issues that plague academia, from someone hoping to head down that direction some day...

PhysioProf said...

Thanks for writing such a riveting blog! I am glad you are pleased with how things are now compared to two years ago. Your blog was one of the few that inspired me to become a blogger myself. (Some of the others were Drugmonkey, I Blame The Patriarchy, Bitch PhD, and Driftglass.)

Laura said...

Your blogging is personally worthwhile or fulfilling even if you can reflect back and say that you are less angry now than you were two years ago. That's a reason to keep blogging.

Anonymous said...

Well, thanks for writing!

We've had a similar evolution, although I haven't taken a look back on my posts much. It's all part of life. I maintain that we never complete growing up, since we are always accruing experience.

Happy blog birthday, then, and look forward to hearing more of your thoughts as you progress in your career.

Anonymous said...

I am just starting a faculty position (technically in -3 months), and as such my new department just posted a picture of me on their webpage. I had the chance to choose the picture, and I gave them two. One with glasses and one without - I sometimes wear glasses and sometimes contacts. They chose the one with glasses because it made me look older and smarter.

Unfortunately, this comment was "better" than some of comments I got while I was interviewing - "we usually don't interview someone as young as you, but you had good recommendation letters". Um, what does my age have to do with anything? And, I'm not that young anyway; I just look young.

I'll be really happy in a couple years when I cross the 40 mark - and I'm having a huge party to celebrate it.

DT said...

I have really enjoyed reading your blog over the past year or so. I don't always agree with your evaluations, but your posts are always food for thought, as are many of the comments left by your other readers. I hope you continue writing. Thank you.

Thomas Joseph said...

Along with the others here, I want to thank you for your blog. I've greatly enjoyed your writing and check back in each and every day to see what you have to say. Please keep up the good work.

Ms.PhD said...

I love your blog. You're always an inspiration.

And I'm glad things actually seem to be better than they were when you started writing.

re: eyeglasses, I had to laugh at this quote from Science magazine (May 23rd issue, page 993):

Female glasses-wearers, in particular, had a 72% likelihood of being seen as smarter
(in reference to an article in the journal Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics).

(note also that boys were perceived as better athletes regardless of whether they wore glasses).

hoyan said...

how funny, this is my two-year blogging anniversary as well! although my blog is about something quite different, i have been following your blog ever since i googled 'female scientist', wondering where they were all at. and i have found your blog most encouraging and amusing. so thank you!

EcoGeoFemme said...

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading you blog for the past 1.5 years or so. I'm always impressed that you have such interesting insights day after day. Thanks for writing! I hope it continues to help you navigate your career but it sure has helped some of your readers understand theirs. :)

Anonymous said...

I gave up all thought of going for an administrative position after I had a taste of it and hated it. But I urge you to make some room for leadership work, if you can bear to, because we need to see more women in such roles. In other words, do what I didn't do. (It's possible that you might hate it less than I did.)

Dr. Jekyll & Mrs. Hyde said...

Yeah, blogrospective! Like PhysioProf (in this respect, at any rate), I was inspired to start a blog because yours gave me comfort and belly laughs. You've sharpened my eye for sexist gaffes at the same time as you've demonstrated that I have it waaaay easier than you did. In addition, you've given me more perspective on lab from the PI's point of view. Thanks.

Candid Engineer said...

Your blog is excellent. It has admittedly been a mini-obsession of mine over the past year or so. If nothing else, you have helped me make some important career-related decisions for myself, because of the transparency that you bring to the otherwise cloaked profession of professor. There is good reason why so many people read what you have to share.

Helen said...

When they do something particularly obnoxious, instead of just feeling angry and thwarted, I write about it and this gives me a more positive perspective on the situation.

Moreover, your doing so has the same effect for other women facing similar situations when they read your blog.

Helen said...

Ms PhD, that's why I don't even own a pair of contacts. Every time I think about buying some, I remember how much my not wearing glasses magically makes other people more stupid.

Anonymous said...

I've read all the posts on this blog. I started a month in and read the small backlog very quickly. Now, give me my honorary lapel pin!

ScientistMother said...

As a young female starting out in her research, I am very happy to have found your blog. I agree that being in leadership positions is important, but right now seeing women being successful scientists is the priority. We can't know that we can reach the top if we don't know we are able to climb. Just as you are an inspiration in the blog world, I am sure your are doing the same for your students.

Nicole said...

I just recently stumbled across this blog and liked/was so amused by the few entries that I read, that I decided to go back to the beginning. As a female physics grad student who will be starting my first year in the fall at UChicago, I want to say thank you for your witty, amusing, and sometimes extremely strange anecdotes. They've explained a few things I've encountered so far in grad student world, and I'm reasonably sure that some other things I've read will probably help me out in the future.

Most of all, I'd like to thank you for sticking with what you wanted to do in order to be a FemaleScienceProfessor. As many people before me have mentioned, proof by existence is inspiring to those of us who might make it there someday. As I don't want to be a parent (this will most likely not change) and I probably don't want to be a professor (I think I might hate teaching but you never know) not all of your experiences may be as useful to me as they are to others, but it absolutely amazing to hear that you do the Science you enjoy while having a semi-normal and happy family (semi-non-Science) life. Thanks for doing this and helping out/entertaining us.

On a sort of related note, several people have complained about your anonymous status. I totally understand your reasons and am glad that your anonymity allows you to be so open, but as a fellow scientist, I'd be interested in the actual science you work on, as well as its broad nature (which you've mentioned in several posts). My own interests are interdisciplinary between observational astronomy and experimental particle physics, and I'd be interested to see how to work on a broad range of topics while still knowing a significant amount about the techniques and theories of what you're doing. Obviously you can't be too specific on your blog as that would probably identify you (and destroy your anonymity).

That being said, I'm off to read the rest of your entries, and please, keep them coming. :)

P.S. I know this comment is really long, but I'm commenting on almost two years worth of blog entries!