If you are a program officer for a major funding organization (example: NSF), here's what not to say to a young female scientist who asks you for advice about a particular funding opportunity for which she is considering applying:
I'm not supposed to say this, but.. you're female, you're young.. [smirk/wink].
I wasn't there, but my young colleague told me about this conversation, which offended her. The program officer is inexperienced and (fortunately) in a non-permanent position, but that is little comfort to my young colleague.
Here's what I want to say to the new guy at NSF:
Please leave your paranoid sexism at home when you go to work.
Please start from the assumption that a female scientist might get funding based entirely on intellectual merit. Yes, I know that one aspect of the NSF broader impacts criterion is to "broaden participation of under-represented groups", and to some that statement is synonymous with "unqualified women will get funded at the expense of more deserving men" and "women think they should get funding just for being women", but look at what that particular young female scientist with whom you were conversing has already accomplished. She has done some extraordinary work and published a lot. Don't patronize her.
And please look at the data showing the distribution of NSF funding with respect to PI gender for your program. I've seen it and know that it clearly demonstrates that women do not have a special advantage over men for funding.
And while you're at it, look at the data on proposal success rate as a function of geography. Then ask yourself whether you would ever say to a white male scientist from, say, North Dakota or Idaho:
I'm not supposed to say this, but .. you're from an EPSCoR state.. [smirk/wink].
Well, maybe this particular person would say that, come to think of it.
2 years ago