Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Why & Me

First, a blanket apology to all those who email me and do not get a reply. If I didn't have various important real life things to do (job, family) perhaps I could get to all these emails and be more responsive to all the requests for this-and-that, but it's just not possible.

I do reply to some emails, and I hope some of my emails have been useful to the recipients. There have also been some interesting proposals, conversations, and bits of information that have come my way via my FSP email, so I certainly don't want to discourage anyone from writing.

A common request is for me to answer questions (for various purposes) about Why I Blog. I think I've touched on this before in various milestone-type posts, but here is an FSP Timeline detailing the evolution of my motivation and thoughts on blogging:

2006

I blog because I am angry. I spend a lot of time being treated as an inferior species of Science Professor. Even when it shouldn't matter, I am reminded that I am a Female Science Professor (hence the blog name). When I achieve something, it must be because someone had to give that grant/award/position to a woman. I am constantly asked if I am a 'real' professor, and only recently have I gotten senior enough that people stop assuming I am my male co-authors' student or postdoc. I am constantly given administrative tasks that require a lot of time for committees that are led by less competent men but I am never given any responsibility. When the issue of my being given responsibility arises, I am told that I don't balance research and administrative work as well as men, despite the fact that I excel at balancing these things and more, and that I am "too young", despite my being the same age or older than men who are apparently not too young. One of my favorite colleagues takes another job, and I no longer have as many friends and allies in the department. Blogging is a useful outlet for some of my anger, and I realize that there aren't many senior women scientists blogging. Perhaps I can be a niche-blogger? Does anyone want to hear the rantings of a senior FSP?

2007

Yes, it seems that some people do. I keep blogging because I find that I have a lot to say and more and more people keep reading and making interesting comments. Can anonymous bloggers be role models? Does it help early career scientists to know that you can have a family and a fun and successful career as a science professor, even at a research university? This is my hope. There are still very few senior women scientists blogging, and I think that maybe my perspective, however strange, might be useful to early career scientists and students. Perhaps my writing about the workings of academia can also help bridge the communication/information gap among the various academic groups and generations.

I am still angry but my career is going well in terms of research and teaching and professional service. Many of my colleagues in my department still think of me as a "junior senior professor", but I find ways to enjoy the rest of my professional life and not be quite so angry about my immediate environment. Other universities start to recruit me as a senior hire and this gives me a chance to think about my career and my future and where I want to be scientifically and geographically. I write about all of these issues and this helps me get perspective, and, since the number of readers keeps increasing, this encourages me to continue.

2008

I am much less angry. My department environment changes for the better. I often blog about academic topics that aren't typically discussed, and I have a lot of fun thinking and writing about these. I like writing about the weird things that happen during the day (I had no idea there were quite so many), and to my surprise, I still have a lot to say. I compile the FSP Book, and it surprises me even more that people read it (and review it!). Blogging becomes more of a creative outlet in a positive way than an anger-outlet.

2009

I keep blogging because it is fun.

21 comments:

The History Enthusiast said...

Even though I'm not a scientist, I read your blog faithfully! I enjoy seeing what life is like for female academics in other fields.

Incidentally, my path is sort of the opposite. I started blogging because it was fun, and now I don't post a lot because I feel like I'm always angry. Go figure.

Stephanie Majewski said...

As a potential future FSP (current FSp, where p = postdoc), your progression is inspiring.

The 2006 description is what us FSps worry about when considering a career in academia...

Greg said...

As long as you keep blogging, I will keep reading. Thank you very much.

Greg said...

Perhaps I should add a bit more. In a couple of months I will take on the role of chair of a PhD granting science department in a major university. Your insightful blog has certainly made me think about issues in ways I would not have been cognizant of without your insight. Yes, you are a role model and an important one for FSPs as well as all SPs. I know that what I have learned here will help guide me as I lead our department and for that I say thank you very much.

Anonymous said...

I am interested to know if you think the blog itself has helped to affect your increasingly positive outlook over these 3-4 years, or if you think that you're simply cataloging a change that would have occurred due to other life changes (dept. getting better, recruitment probes, etc).

At any rate, thank YOU for keeping it up! I share it with all my collegues (they particularly loved your recent "Bad Advisor" post). The FSP community has helped me get a much needed "outside" perspective that I wouldn't otherwise have.

Anonymous said...

Happy Blogging, FSP! As a foreigner academic, this blog has been a useful resource for me to understand academic culture and environment of American universities, and it helps me indirectly to decide for my own future path. Also some of your posts are quite funny to read and I do forward it to my friends and colleagues.

Styling with Renee Michelle said...

Yes, you can definitely be a mentor while anonymous. As a female science graduate student, forewarned is forearmed. Your candid and thoughtful discussions introduce me to issues I will encounter in academia.

amy said...

I want to add my thanks for your blog! I read it every day, though I don't always comment. I'm an asst. prof. in the humanities, and I find your entries and the resulting discussion incredibly helpful in getting me to think differently about things or just to feel like others are having similar experiences to mine. I'm also very impressed at the way you can regularly come up with interesting topics for discussion. I've toyed with the idea of starting a blog, but I know I wouldn't be able to generate enough content.

yolio said...

This is a really nice post.

Siz said...

I love reading your blog. It makes me feel like "I'm not the only one." I just started my career this past fall at X large research university in the physical sciences. I am significantly younger than almost all of my colleagues and the only female. I am often angry with the way I am treated. I look very young, around 22ish and am generally found to be very attractive. When I meet people for the first time, they often do not believe I do what I do. Honestly, who would lie about being a science professor?

I am very nervous about teaching my first large lecture course as I feel like half of my students won't respect me and the other half will want to date me.

I love knowing that the things I am going through have been experienced by others and that I'm not crazy for thinking some of the things I think.

I hope you keep blogging as I now this site is helpful for many young women hoping to or just beginning their careers in academia.

Anonymous said...

In reply to Siz and/or to get FSP's thoughts on the matter: I am also generally found to be attractive (with the same repercussions as you), with the result that I think waaaaay too much about how to look professional without looking pretty. Do you worry about this and/or have any advice about the matter? Is there any dignified response other than playing dumb or ignoring the situation when MSPs hit on you?

I_am_Tulsa said...

I found your blog when I was looking for something for one of my former students to read. She will be going to MIT later this fall. She enjoys your blog, but I have become a lurking fan too! (well, not lurking anymore it seems...)
I hope you continue to have fun with your blog since you are so inspiring!

Unbalanced Reaction said...

I love the blogging progression.

Oh, and a note to your (comment) readers: BUY THE BOOK! Even if you've read FSP for awhile, the book still is a great resource, and a super enlightening/fun/encouraging read.

Principle Investigator said...

I am a young FSP, and your blog has helped me survive my first year as an assistant professor! While (unfortunately?) I do not generally seem to be considered to be "very attractive," I am commonly mistaken for an undergraduate (Friday is my 35th birthday). I also know that my students have underestimated my expertise because I was not loud, confident, and, dare I say, manly enough in front of the classroom. It's so nice to read your posts and others' comments and know that I am not alone.

Ms.PhD said...

Interesting, because I had noticed this shift if your blog, but hadn't really analyzed it as such.

I miss the angry FSP, because I am still angry. But I know that just because your career is going better now, does not mean that your gender lenses are gone. You just talk about it less.

In fact, in my view, your progression analysis that things improved - only because things changed from the outside? beyond your control? - doesn't seem good. I see this same pattern in my career and I hate it.

I enjoyed your last post about FSPs and recruiting students. That was more interesting since it kind of bridged the gap more between your posts about or directed to students, and posts that are more relevant to those of us who are not currently teaching (and for whom teaching is probably going to be the least of our troubles).

But I will probably keep reading so long as you're not always writing about everything going amazingly well (ugh, I can't take that). I always enjoyed your snarky posts about your family, even if they are only indirectly related to being an FSP.

FEP said...

As a junior FEP (E: engineering), I gained valulable perspective from your posts. Thank you for writing.

FEP said...

Perhaps I should mention that created blog inspired by your writings. I wrote my first blog post yesterday somewhat related to why I blog and about teaching evaulation. I would love to hear your comments. Hope saying so is not imposing. And the post is long. So it is ok.

Anonymous said...

I gave your book to the new (male) head of my department. He is very interested in creating a healthy environment for female students and faculty. It seems like he got quite a bit out of the book, so thanks for taking the time to put it together! (it would have been more difficult to have him read tons of former posts).

Curt F. said...

Like so many others, I appreciated this post a lot. It's heartwarming to see that frustrating situations can change, and the FSP has been a role model to so many.

I am a relative new reader of the blog, but I think what I like most about FSP is the mix of "gender lensing" (to paraphrase MsPhD's apt term) with other random aspects of academic life. I am not a woman, so I am sure that I do not see many key aspects of the FSP, FSp, and FSGS experience, and FSP definitely helps open my eyes sometimes.

Other FSP-type blogs I have skimmed seemed so gender-focused and angry that it made it difficult for me to judge credibility of the author. It may be a callous thing to say, but as a uncommitted male blog surfer it is difficult to ascertain if someone is hypersensitive wrt gender issues, or if someone really is in a terrible situation. FSP's non-rant posts reassure me that FSP is thoughtful and observant on a huge range of topics, which, rightly or wrongly, lends credence to her "gender-lensed" views in my mind. I doubt I'm the only who thinks (?) like this, and from FSP's post it doesn't seem like she adopted this mixed-content strategy with dudes like me in mind. But however it happened, I like it and I hope you keep going.

The other comments to this post are also making it more likely that I'll read FSP's book.

Kevin said...

Curt F said
Other FSP-type blogs I have skimmed seemed so gender-focused and angry that it made it difficult for me to judge credibility of the author.As another male reader, I have to concur. The wide range of posts which I can identify with makes it easier for me accept the observations that disagree with my own experience. I have recommended this blog to female proteges for its combination of useful advice and reasonable tone.

FEP said...

I appreciate so much your comments on my post (about negative feeling to negative teaching evaluation). Also, sincere thanks again for writing the chronological states of your blogging. As a new blogger, it is so uplifting to see that one could move from the initial stage of "angry" writing to eventually creative and fun blogging!