Thursday, March 31, 2011

I Hear You

In a recent Ms. Mentor column in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Ms. Mentor fielded a question from a "Katie Anne", a "new, young assistant professor in a department of older, mostly male, tenured faculty members". Katie Anne feels invisible in her department, particularly in meetings. No one listens to her. Her accomplishments are ignored. A male professor on a committee is praised for his participation; she is praised for being a good note-taker on the same committee.

This is of course a classic problem that many women have described and discussed. I have done my fair share of complaining about this very issue in this blog and in real life.

What to do?

I generally find Ms. Mentor amusing, but I was not amused by this advice, which I have heard before and in fact have never liked:

"Middle-aged men do lose the ability to hear higher registers, and they may tune out high-pitched or breathy voices. Women can train themselves to speak in lower, more resonant tones. The best female voice to imitate, according to Researchers Who Know, belongs to Julia Roberts."

That advice makes me want to scream in a shrill, high-pitched voice. In fact, I don't have a high-pitched or breathy voice, and quite a few middle-aged men (and women) can hear me just fine. Furthermore, although my voice is not particularly loud and not especially resonant, plenty of middle-aged and older men can hear me when they want to. The problem is that some don't want to. They need to be trained to listen to women.

Is that a non-constructive thing to ask? If we women are serious about being taken seriously, should we be willing to train ourselves to speak (but, according to Ms. Mentor, not look) like Julie Roberts for the higher purpose of being heard? Isn't it a small thing to suggest -- that women learn to speak in a more "resonant" voice so that men will listen to us more?

No, it is not a small thing to suggest. And the problem is not our voices.

The invisible, inaudible young professor is also advised by Ms. Mentor to say only intelligent, relevant things. OK, that's fine, let's all restrict ourselves to saying only intelligent, relevant things.. if our male colleagues do the same.

Oh yes, and the young assistant professor should work hard at making people like her. I don't think there is much evidence that women who are thought to be nice and friendly are taken more seriously than cranky women, but I'm certainly not going to argue against trying to be collegial, even with selectively deaf middle-aged men.

I agree that young women should try to avoid the upward inflection that makes statements sound like questions and should try to speak directly and professionally. I have trouble listening for even short periods of time to people who use 'like' 5 times in every sentence, particularly in a professional conversation. This is advice for everyone, not just women. And this is not the same as telling half the population to train their voice so that the other half will not tune them out.

The best part of Ms. Mentor's advice is the last part:

"Once you do get tenure, and you're eminent and older, you'll stop being invisible. You can get a cowbell or a bullhorn and become a powerful and tyrannical dean. That'll get everyone's attention—but so will being a kind and inclusive mentor, who tries to get all to listen and speak. You'll know how."

I agree that with time and relentless evidence that a woman is a serious professional with useful and interesting things to say, many men will listen more. But it can take a lot of time to get there; in my case, well over 10 years.

Getting tenure is of course essential, but if a woman is invisible before tenure, she is likely to be only semi-visible soon after getting tenure. Female associate professors are less invisible; they are sort of translucent.

When promoted to full professor, after a few years, we solidify a bit more. Perhaps our voices also deepen!? And we are more visible and audible to those who were unable to see (and hear) us when we were younger, particularly if we are respected by people outside our own departments (and our department colleagues know this) and if quite a few younger faculty have been hired.

So, to the Katie Annes of the academic world: Keep your voice, use it to make your points clearly and well (even if you have to make them more than once), and do awesome work. A hopeful thought is that it won't take 10-15 years to be seen and heard. Perhaps the "invisible" stage for young female professors in male-dominated departments will get shorter and shorter in duration, and eventually disappear. I would like to see that.

If you are a formerly invisible female professor: How long did it take you to become visible? Did anything other than tenure and time bring an end to your invisibility?

If you are still invisible: How long have you been in this state?

38 comments:

Gears said...

I have a tangential question with this. If those older, deaf male faculty members cannot hear their female colleagues because their voice is too high, what about listening to 18-23 year old female UGs? Questions do arise in class from time to time... Or are those the same faculty that only like to hear themselves speak and don't listen to anyone at all? (ie: do they listen to their male colleagues?)

Either way, I'm somewhat shocked and dismayed for my gender that we would be considered that tone deaf. If a male faculty member isn't listening to a female faculty member and not treating them with equal respect, that's a substantial issue, not one of vocal tones.

Anonymous said...

I'm invisible, dismissed, not taken seriously. Even (male) grad students are taken more seriously than me, by my senior (male) colleagues. It doesn't help that I look very young for my age (I'm even been mistaken for an undergrad).....not only that but blatant sexist remarks are common fodder for jokes and small talk during departmental meetings. I've been in my department for a year.

besides me, there is one older (and tenured) woman in the department. The Old Boys don't listen to her either. the young boys join in with the old ones. most of her comments are dismissed or ridiculed or just plain ignored. She is always cranky and in a bad mood, and now I can see why.

I've encountered sexism before when I was a grad student and postdoc, but not to this degree. My previous approach (which worked then) varied from tolerating it until the situation blew over (i.e. until the collaboration ended and that person was out of my life forever) or saying something back at them that made them shut up. But it's different when it's not just one person here, another person there, but the entire frickin department (there's only two of us women - me and the cranky old tenured female prof) and they are all sexist just short of making any statements that FOR SURE qualify for a sexual harassment charge. But the veiled undertones are there all the time.

I'm seriously thinking of leaving. I think my career will be sunk no matter what I do, if I stay here. I think that if I can't get a position elsewhere I would rather leave academia than stay in this department and try to build my career here. I don't think it's a wise use of my time and efforts to spend it in this department.

male science undergraduate said...

Hmm, I'm afraid I'm still an undergraduate; but I notice that in my department there are some lecturers who are confident and some who are quiet, yet they all have different strengths. Note I'm not talking about gender here, in fact there is about a 50:50 mix, with many women in top positions (the last two heads of department for example) and one being promoted to head of chemistry for the country.

So how to let women be heard in the department? Hire more of them, promote them fairly.

MamaRox said...

I turned down those jobs where I could see myself feeling invisible. During "best behavior" in interviews, there were subtle clues that as the youngest and only woman (or one of few women), I would likely spend years feeling like Katie Anne. I held out for a faculty position among colleagues who seemed very much to see me and hear me, even with my soft voice. Did I take the easy path? All other things being more-or-less equal, wouldn't you?

Dr. Sneetch said...

I have a shrill high pitched feminine voice. I suppose I have to get voice lessons. Maybe I can get voice lessons at the salon while I'm getting a Brazilian blowout breathing in all that formaldehyde in an attempt to look like a film star.

Janice said...

How is the woman to get tenure if she languishes as only semi-visible, at best, thanks to older men who're excused for ignoring her. (There's a simple solution for when you can't hear someone. You say "Excuse me, could you speak up? My ears aren't what they used to be!" You don't get a free ride because you're an old guy!)

The fact that they hear and praise her male compatriot while they ignore or minimize her work is a sign that, when it comes to tenure assessment, they'll do the same. Katie Anne should try and get the chair to turn things around while doing her best to get out of there because they are likely not to tenure her from all that's said.

bam294 said...

Actually one of my favorite tid-bits from the grand po-bah was to hide the cleavage. Really? How about if I get to tell my male counterparts to put away the lame arse hair pieces and stop scratching their man parts? My full name is also an 'Ann' at the end fuck anyone who wants me to change it so they can take me more seriously. Anyone who is dismissive of me gets privately called on it. "Hey Old Man Who Can't Hear Me, I noticed that you said I was the secretary for that committee. I have a real interest in being a valued member and THOUGHT I was put on for my opinions and experience. Do you have some inside knowledge that this is not the case?" Lets face it kids, if they are dissing you to your face, they are killing you behind your back. And then I'm the bitch, but I am the smiling super friendly bitch so it confuses them and entertains me.
JUST MY TWO CENTS (said in loud berka so as to not offend).

Anonymous said...

In my experience, one is LESS visible after tenure. At least before tenure you are non-threatening. I was simply shocked when I started being asked to serve on high-level university committees and national committees that this was the case. This is one of the few issues that makes me seriously consider changing careers.

Anonymous said...

Wow, do I agree that it is bad advice, and it makes me wonder if Ms. Mentor isn't actually Mr. Mentor. I work in a weird corner of academe, not TT, but very much of the same culture. I'm female and look about 10 years younger than my age, and find that I get dismissed until I start talking substance. With men who don't already know me, I get surprised looks that I'm asking the tough intellectual questions. But, even among my close senior colleagues, when a more junior male repeats a suggestion I made, he gets the kudos. The most recent time that happened the junior colleague was thoughtful enough to correct the attribution.

I've worked in two other male-dominated fields outside of research, and in each case I handled the sexism differently on the surface. Underneath, though, was the Ginger Rogers principle: "Ginger did everything Fred did, in high heels and backwards." Whether I used flirting to work around sexist assumptions, or edgy come-backs to answer any remarks, I did my best to work hard and do better work. These days I focus just on the work, and act like I have every right to be there and to be heard.

Anonymous said...

I am an associate professor in a male-dominated department. I am only slightly less invisible now that I am tenured, compared to pre-tenure. However, a lot of it is attributable to my personality. The way I dealt with the stress of the tenure track was to stay out of the way, below anyone's radar. I have been encouraged to speak up now that I have tenure, but I don't feel like I have built up enough capital yet.

The interesting thing that I noticed is that a few years back we hired a female tenure track. She was not invisible. In fact she was very vocal, and rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. She was recently let go.

gasstationwithoutpumps said...

As a somewhat deaf man, I have to say that Ms. Mentor's comment is BS. I frequently have to ask students in class to speak up, and I've had to ask as many men as women. Voices are not overlooked in faculty meetings because of being soft or high-pitched.

Some people's opinions may be ignored because of gender (or other) biases of the listeners in some departments. Other people's opinions are ignored because they have a history of saying stupid things. I have not noticed any consistent pattern of ignoring or mis-attributing contributions in our faculty meetings.

There was one incident at a faculty meeting where the chair heard me support something that a junior female faculty member had said, and mis-attributed the idea to me. I immediately corrected him to give proper attribution, and there have not been any repeats of that problem. (In fairness to the chair, there had been multiple people talking at once, and he may not have heard the original remark.)

Walt Lessun said...

I'm male, but I'm a librarian so am used to being ignored. And, I'm in higher education in Michigan so I'm really used to being ignored...

Anonymous said...

It certainly happens where I am as well. I've been here for six years. What has helped is having a small cadre of the male faculty be willing to stand up for the women when they are mis-treated. Some of the older ones still don't get it but it is helping.

Btw, it is entirely possible to ask an outside observer to come to faculty meetings to help change the culutre. I have been to meetings with this and it really makes a big difference. The university provides such a person.

My advice to the one poster who says she is in such a department it to find a new job as quickly as you can. If your whole department is that way, there is no good way to stay. I am fortunate in that there is a cadre of good people or I'd feel the same way.

Anonymous said...

There was definitely some gender bias from my male colleagues until I had been right enough times for them to listen to me. It was very frustrating, but now I am the first one they look at for an opinion. My voice is soft and quite high-pitched but I don't think that was the problem except in the cases where discussions got loud and voices overlapped and I just simply wasn't heard. For those occasions, I have learned to speak more loudly, but otherwise have never tried to rasp or bellow.

Like FSP, I hold in disdain the raised inflection that some younger females adopt. It irritates me no end as I feel it does them no favors. Giggling and coyness added to the inflection usually results in my writing the person off as fluff. I'm not sure this is fair, as it is only one step removed from the 'change your pitch' admonition, but I really can't take women who talk like that seriously, so I'm not sure I'm any better than the male dinosaurs. Just more aware of it. If I got around my prejudices and grew to respect one of them, my instinct would be to tell them "don't do that! It does you no favors!" but so far this has not happened. I think the phenomenon may be more rare than a few years ago. I hope so.

Anonymous said...

Male Science Undergraduate alluded to an important factor: confidence. Studies have confirmed that women are systematically less confident than men, and this will obviously manifest itself in conversation and other interactions. People tend to favor listening to confident expressions than tentative ones. I'm not saying that this is the only cause for obviously sexist attention distribution, but our means of expressing ourselves is something we can control.

Another thing Katie Anne could do is to seek out a couple mentors amongst the older male colleagues. These people could help advocate for her, and raise her visibility and credibility. The challenge would be to make sure that she can establish her independence from these mentors (hence 2 unaffiliated ones would be better than 1).

Anonymous said...

It took me 5 years to be heard.

An Asian Female Science Professor

bsci said...

It's worth pointing out the probable origin of the hearing difference. Leonard Sax and several others actively push stories of biological sex differences based on dubious reviews of literature. This is one of the examples that Sax frequently uses and has entered common belief. It is wrong. Here are two links with more details:
http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/003487.html
http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/003561.html

Ms.PhD said...

Very depressing discussion.

I'm a little baffled as to how these women get hired in the first place. Did anyone hear their job talks-?! Why would you hire someone whom you don't respect and whose contributions you don't value? Or is this affirmative action backfiring on us again?

My experience has been all of the above re: the post and the comments. Ms. Mentor is not someone I would want as my mentor, although I did read her books and tried to incorporate any advice she had that seemed useful. Much of it was offensive or simplistic and missing the point. I find her to be very conservative and old-fashioned, much like Miss Manners but less clever.

Despite all the effort I put into getting advice from women faculty, I still felt ignored and dismissed and undervalued by my advisors and peers in male-dominated labs.

Despite being Ginger Rogers with a Julia Roberts voice and the ability to use it to say intelligent things succinctly.

And I found that being confident got me labeled bitch, maybe because I look 10 years younger than I am and I didn't play the expected role for my physical appearance. One friend suggested that it's actually a relatively rare combination that scientists particularly dislike because it doesn't fit with their usual comfortable patterns or expectations.

It was bad enough that I think it drastically impacted the quality of mentoring from my advisors, and I think that drastically impacted my chances of getting a job.

It is very cold comfort to think that even if I had managed to get a position, I could probably expect more of the same treatment as a junior professor. No wonder, then, that so many women want to leave academic science.

Being invisible was one of the worst feelings I've ever encountered. It's like being in love with someone who doesn't know you're alive, but you keep trying to get their attention. You'll keep trying until you get rejected or run out of hope, and then you just feel like dirt.

Anonymous said...

I can see women being "less heard" because (1) they might actually be quieter, all else held the same; (2) they might be quieter because they are, on average, less confident; or (3) their opinions are deemed ignorable because they project less confidence. I have no idea about (1). I see (2) frequently (and am "guilty" of it myself) and strongly suspect (3).

The solution to (2) isn't simply that women should be on average as confident as men. There's too much overconfident bullshitting that does not help science, and many people get away with it in audiences of non-peers. (Here, I mean non-peers as people who aren't qualified to review your papers.) I'm a female postdoc and, though on the quiet/contemplative side, will speak up if anyone asserts something incorrect and nontrivial about something I know well. These people would normally be given the benefit of the doubt by other scientists and non-scientists. I don't get to take advantage of this phenomenon as much, because I eschew overselling and overconfidence (something studies have shown almost all experts are prey to).

It annoys me to no end when I see undergrads, non-scientists, and distantly related scientists smitten by the salesman and not the scientist producing real results. Almost all of the overly aggressive self-promoters I know are men. It seems twisted to encourage the same level of self-promotion in women, but I don't know what to do... hope listeners will become more discerning?

Anonymous said...

I'm Anon @ 1:36, and I should add that my hypotheses (1), (2), and (3) weren't so well elaborated. As others have said, if women are literally harder to hear (hypotheses 1 and 2), that's not an excuse. If their apparent and relative lack of confidence is held against them, that's also to a large extent inexcusable, though I don't know a good solution.

Confused Assistant Prof said...

I actually have almost exactly the opposite problem. I'm a woman in my first faculty position in a heavily female-dominated field. I'm never afraid to speak up in meetings, I'm confident, I ask intelligent questions, and I'm meticulous and exacting when it comes to internal processes and reports. However, my department is timid, soft-spoken, polite to the point of nearly groveling, and rather detail-oblivious. So, naturally, this marks me as an anal retentive bitch.

To some extent, I don't mind the bitch designation, because it gets work done. But lately, I've been told (nay, cautioned!) by multiple people in multiple ways that my behavior is *masculine*, and that bugs me. I apologize for critiquing someone's idea (after they asked for critique, I might add), and the response is, "That's okay. A lot of men do that." I express frustration to a colleague (with some program-coordinator-type authority over me, but at the same career level as myself) about our organizational culture, and I'm encouraged to seek employment elsewhere, possibly in a more researchy area, because "that's a more male-dominated environment, so you might fit in better." And so forth. It's getting ridiculous.

Does anybody else ever have this problem? The first couple times this happened, I laughed it off as some sort of not-so-clever social commentary, but now that it keeps happening, I'm starting to get concerned. Is this really a product of working primarily with other women? Or is my department just weird?

Anonymous said...

I'm a youngish assistant professor in the social sciences who has become so frustrated with not being heard that I've basically stopped trying (and am in the process of my field entirely - due to a whole host of issues). In my department many of the older men actually go out of their way to try to be sure I am heard - I had one tell me that he knew I had smart things to say and he could see that people were talking over me in meetings, and another older colleague cut off a younger male professor in a meeting once because I had had my hand up for many, many minutes and the other prof kept cutting me off when I tried to interject. So, I don't think it's an age thing on the part of men.

Nor does personal presentation explain it all - I am taller than many men (5'10"), sturdily built, don't look particularly young, and don't have a high-pitched voice, and I am still routinely ignored by male academic colleagues of all ages. It is extremely frustrating, and I look forward to returning soon to my previous, female-dominated field, in which I was treated as a competent person who was worth listening to rather than an invisible presence who is occasionally acknowledged.

unexplained said...

Thanks to the poster who mentioned Language Log. As a scientist with expertise in both speech acoustics AND age-related hearing loss, let me correct the false connection between hearing loss in "the higher registers" and voice pitch. The frequency ranges involved are completely unrelated. A typical age-related hearing loss shows drops in sensitivity beginning around 1000 Hz, and getting progressively worse as you go higher. Low-frequency hearing, in contrast is well-preserved, more so for men than for women.

While women do have higher-pitched voices than men, it's all still low-frequency. The average fundamental frequency is around 125 Hz for men, and around 225 Hz for women.

I thought of correcting Ms. Mentor but I suspect my odds of being "heard" (sorry) are better here.

Kea said...

I do not, by any stretch of the imagination, have a high pitched voice, but the majority of men in my field (theoretical physics) are completely incapable of listening to anything I say, except subconsciously. They must listen subconsciously, because when it's a good idea they find themselves inventing some time thereafter. They never cite me. They demonstrably think I am totally useless as an academic, even though I am a pioneer in my field and am regularly mentioned. Supposedly this is because I am uncooperative, whenever I happen to disagree with any man. They register only the lack of cooperation, and see it as a weakness.

Yes, it is time these men were all forcibly trained in gender issues. Through legislation, so they can't wangle out of it.

Melodye said...

I think you're right that Ms. Mentor largely missed the point, but I also think that women frequently adjust the pitch of their voices to the social context, and in certain situations, lowering their voices may actually be the most appropriate thing to do. I wrote a whole article about it, in the context of working as a woman in science. Here's an excerpt:

"In my family, the way I talk is a bit of an ongoing joke. My voice is husky and low; more Bacall than Monroe. But when I talk to women or strangers (particularly on the phone), I unconsciously raise the register of my voice, so that I end up speaking several semitones higher than my natural pitch. It's not simply the pitch that changes though -- my accent and inflections, the idioms, the way I laugh -- everything shifts towards 'feminine.' I certainly don't mean to do it; and if not for my brothers' endless mocking, might never have noticed that I do."

Ms. Mentor is suggesting: if you're trying to sound specifically feminine, don't. That's simply not an attribute worth emphasizing in a professional context. It's kind of like dressing to emphasize your ass - if that's the tactic you want to adopt in an academic setting, fine, but let's be realistic - why would it be?

Also very relevant:
http://beingawomaninphilosophy.wordpress.com/

plam said...

For some reason, (male) MIT undergrads used to uptalk when I was there. I found it pretty annoying.

I also do look like a (undergrad?) student, but either I'm delusional or it doesn't cause me problems being listened to. Then again, I'm not female. Sometimes I just don't feel like contributing to a discussion when other people have excessive output, but that's a different point.

Anonymous said...

male science undergraduate said: "I notice that in my department there are some lecturers who are confident and some who are quiet,"

Quiet doesn't necessarily equate with lack of confidence, and in fact sometimes means that when you do speak up, you have something meaningful to say and are heard.It's a fine balance though!

Anonymous said...

Four years (but I was also a trailing spouse -- so it's hard to disentangle the two).

DrDoyenne said...

Interesting discussion. In Ms. Mentor's defense (and she is a woman, by the way), I think she is advising those who are not being "heard" to consider taking action rather than waiting for others to change their behavior or preconceived notions.

Yes, it shouldn't be this way. Male colleagues should treat females with equal respect, but they are not likely to change on their own (and you are not likely to change them). You can, however, change your visibility (or in this case, audibility).

It's always surprising to me that no one questions the advice to speak out in meetings, to continue to offer intelligent opinions, to speak with confidence, etc., in the hopes of being heard. Yet, the suggestion to modify the tenor of one's voice so that it is better heard (or sounds more authoritative) is challenged. I see little difference, especially if it alters how others view you.

I once heard an excellent talk by a woman who spoke about this very topic. She not only demonstrated how speaking in the lower range (of one's natural voice) sounded more authoritative and held people's attention, but that body language was also very important to establishing a woman as being confident and someone to be listened to. She did a comparison of how men move and gesture in front of an audience vs. how women typically move. It was quite eye-opening.

This is not solely a female gender issue, although women with naturally softer or higher-pitched voices are more affected. All scientists should cultivate a strong, vibrant voice that conveys confidence and authority--or risk being pegged as weak and ill-informed.

As a female with a very soft (but not high-pitched!) voice and a Southern US accent (a double whammy), I am very aware of how my voice influences others' opinion of me.

If you spend a lot of time in front of an audience (teaching, delivering talks at conferences, in meetings), it might be worthwhile evaluating your voice, your body language, and your physical appearance. It's human nature to be influenced by these factors in assessing others' abilities and status. You cannot change human nature, but you can change how you are perceived by others.

If you are not being taken seriously, you have the option to change or to continue to be ignored. Waiting until you have tenure (or achieve some other status in the distant future) in the hopes of becoming "heard" is exactly what the Old Boys want you to do.

Anonymous said...

There's definitely a double-bind here: be assertive and confident and you are butch or a bitch; be demure and self-effacing and you are clearly not good enough for this field!

One of my favorite New Yorker cartoons showed a group of people in business suits around a conference table--with one a woman. The man at the head of the table, speaking to the lone woman, said, "That's a great point, Sally. And when one of the men makes it, we'll all recognize it."

Hope I live long enough so that nobody gets that joke anymore.

siz said...

I am in the only female in a chemistry department of mostly tenured older faculty. I am the youngest in my specific division by 25 years. I am completely ignored all the time. I have 3 colleagues that acknowledge my presence.

A certain older faculty member used to physically run me over with his chair in faculty meetings. I never speak in meetings because if I do, there are a few colleagues that immediately speak over me. Every time. I don't think it is conscience but it does happen. I have one colleague that is visibly and personally hostile to me.

It has been like this for three years. I hate feeling invisible and the sense of isolation and loneliness I feel everyday is really getting me down.

My chair treats me like a graduate student and nothing I say is taken seriously.

It's gotten to the point where I want to leave academia. I know it's not like this everywhere, but my colleagues don't understand that the reason they have a reputation with the administration for being sexist is because they are.

Susan B. Anthony said...

I really liked this suggestion (Anonymous @12:04):

Another thing Katie Anne could do is to seek out a couple mentors amongst the older male colleagues. These people could help advocate for her, and raise her visibility and credibility.

I attended a women's professional development workshop at my field's annual conference a couple of years ago, and we talked about this as well as a host of other strategies. An ally at the table can insist that your ideas be heard ("Katie makes a great point; could you elaborate, Katie?") and help defend you against others if necessary ("Bob, you're out of line. Let's let Katie finish what she was saying."). When we role-played the hostile-meeting scenario, intervention by an ally was surprisingly effective even when the other participants knew it was coming. It works especially well if the allies spread themselves around the table so their voices come from all sides. Another strategy is to talk to the chair (or person convening the meeting) and get your particular topic put on the agenda so that the group is forced to dedicate time to it, and YOU are the one leading that part of the discussion and determining the action items.

Some may see these tactics as just another way to cede power to the men in the group, but I disagree: one of the keys to success in a competitive field is to make strategic alliances and to be aware of the meta-context of what's going on around you. In my experience, a lot of scientists aren't good at "politics" and don't particularly like situations in which they have to negotiate complicated social minefields. If you can become skilled at this, you have a lot more power over the situation.

Anonymous said...

As it happens, two male collaborators to whom I independently spouted an insight together with reasoning and supporting evidence several months ago are now at a meeting together. Today one of them had a great insight after they spoke together. He was kind enough to email me to reveal this new idea, which was the one that I had shared with both of them months earlier. I am the anon from 3/31 at 12:01 pm who thought all of this was behind her. Depressing.

Anonymous said...

I'm also curious as to how the women who have posted here about being invisible and ignored and marginalized in their departments, even got hired in the first place? Why would the sexist departments hire someone that they obviously don't respect? Why would they hire you only to ignore and marginalize you immediately? since we're talking about tenure track faculty positions, it's not like you were in another department then got trasnferred against your will to a sexist department due to reorganization or something (as might be the case if you were in industry or government)

Were you hired as a "Target of Opportunity" (see FSP's post from a week ago or so about that topic) or as a trailing spouse??

of course there's no way to know what goes on in other people's minds and their reasons for hiring you, but I'm just curious.


this is why I would be very wary about taking any job that was advertised specifically as a "target of opportunity"....as well as being a trailing spouse..

Anonymous said...

FSP, I do get what you mean. I am blessed with a Julia Roberts-like voice and an assertive personality and sometimes I still get ignored. However there is a grain of usefulness in Ms Mentor's advice. Some young females (and a few males) talk so hesitantly and in a childlike voice, they end all sentences as if it's a question? I can't stand it, and I am not a middle aged male but female asst prof.

We have an asst prof like this in my department and every time she speaks my brain just shuts down. I alternately feel like wanting her to stop talking, or speak up. I can't understand her. Students do this a lot too. I think this manner of speech undermines their authority and stature. I don't know how to politely suggest they work on this, but I sometimes want to!

This is not to say the systemic sexism we experience can be attributed to our speech, but I do see the value in her advice.

gasstationwithoutpumps said...

"I don't know how to politely suggest they work on this, but I sometimes want to!"

I give this advice to student frequently, usually in the context of a review of a formal presentation by the student. I teach several classes in which students are required to give presentations explicitly to elicit this sort of feedback.

Anonymous said...

After 5 years, my skill set still remains largely invisible.

Brenda Tucker said...

I'm thrilled to find this conversation taking place here because I have worked for over 15 years in the general community trying to gather attention for an idea that I think should appeal to everyone. In fact, please visit my webpage because I introduce myself on the page with a statement (rougly 7 sentences in) along the lines of ". . . I can't find a way to get listened to."

I recognize that those posting here are likely professors and I applaud you, but isn't it true that what you say actually does need to resonate both within your field or faculty AND outside? Since I have worked for so many years trying to be heard ON ONE POINT, I would like to make a conclusion about this process generally: it is political.

The way to get listened (for the fsp and the 10 or so commentators) is for every one of us to form an organization intended to say what it is we aren't being heard on. I need every single person I meet to back me up for what I'm saying and in return, I and everyone else can support and reiterate what you are trying to say.

I hope you like reading about a new theory of evolution that I think is sensational. I only wish someone had bothered to tell it to me 35 years ago prior to my dropping out of college where I was working for a degree in psychology.