At some point in the unspecified past, some colleagues and I were profiled in a University publication. This has happened at various times my academic career; I suspect that most us professors show up at some point in some University propaganda magazine, brochure, newsletter etc.
It is always strange for me to read about myself, but some of these articles are better than others (in my opinion) in capturing what (I think) is important about my research and my work as a professor in general. That's not surprising, but what surprised me recently was the dramatic difference between how I was portrayed and how a colleague in Another Science Department was portrayed.
We are both about the same age, both in physical science departments, and have other similarities in our career paths (hence the juxtaposition of these profiles).
And yet, the profile of me talked about my gentle personality (my soft smile, my quiet way of talking about my research passions), an important childhood experience, and how I came to be a professor of Science. The profile of the other professor mentioned millions in grant $ and buckets of publications. The person who interviewed us (separately) never even asked me about grants or publications.
The other professor, who is male, comes across as dynamic, assertive, and awesome in his funding and publishing. I come across as quiet and pleased to be doing some cool science.
This is not just a complaint about the discrepancy in how an MSP and an FSP were portrayed in these profiles, although it is partly that. This is also a musing about how I could have conducted the interview in a different way.
I was quite passive in the interview -- I answered the questions posed, and was only proactive a few times when I felt the interviewer was spending too much time on topics that weren't very interesting or relevant. But I didn't volunteer anything about my grants and publications or any other "metric" of my academic productivity and success. The interviewer had my CV, and clearly knew a lot about my background and career. My grants and publications are listed on my CV, so she had this information. And yet, these things weren't considered interesting or relevant to write about me, but they were for the MSP.
During my interview, which lasted over an hour, the interviewer talked a lot about herself -- her childhood, her life, her travels, her family, her career. I would say that at least 62.5% of the time was consumed by the interviewer telling me about herself. Perhaps this was her strategy to make our interview more of a conversation instead of a list of boring facts about me, but it got to be a little strange when a brief answer from me kept turning into a longer answer from her about her own experiences, some of which were only remotely related to her original question.
I told some colleagues about this later, and all wondered whether the interviewer did the same thing with the MSP and whether, unlike what I did, he took charge of his interview and basically told her what to write. Perhaps because I didn't do this, the interviewer accurately portrayed me as gentle and passive, but I think it was an incomplete, and therefore somewhat unfair, depiction. I think it should be possible to describe me as a soft-spoken person who nevertheless brings in millions in grant $ and who has swarms of publications.
Gentle women can be very busy and productive scientists, although you might not know it to read about some of us.