Wednesday, May 31, 2006

You Can't Be Serious

I do not look my age, I do not look like a professor, I do not look like a scientist.

My colleagues are, with a few exceptions, very kind and polite to me, and some (many? most?) even like me, although that is perhaps an unscientific statement. But they do not take me seriously. I am successful by most objective measures of Academia (grants, papers, awards, invitations to be on panels, editorial boards, and so on), but my opinion on departmental matters is ignored. Some of my unproductive, senior, bearded colleagues, however, are taken very seriously when they express their Opinions, which of course they do, since they don't have much else to do.

It is the classic, stereotypical situation for which academia is sometimes criticized and parodied. Most of these guys were hired decades ago when their advisor knew someone whose department had an opening, and just like that, they were hired. More astonishing, they were tenured and promoted. These guys wouldn't even pass a pre-tenure review by today's standards. I am a big fan of tenure, but also of post-tenure review. I don't (necessarily..) want to see them removed from their academic perches, but it would be nice if they would either be more useful or at least just stay in their offices and write little books, or maybe teach more classes (as long as they teach well). But no.. these guys have Power. They serve on the important, decision-making committees, including those that hire new faculty. I am given clerical tasks and asked to serve on committees that need a woman for diversity's sake.

When I achieve something (e.g., get an award), my colleagues think it is just because I am a woman, so I don't get the same *credit* as men do when achieving the same things. And they are not shy about making their views known to me. I recently attained a semi-prestigious level of my career, and it didn't take long for the comments to begin: "Did they have to pick a woman?" and "I guess they needed to name a woman for that." Yes yes, of course that must be it! Being female is SO important in physical sciences research. I bring all sorts of wonderful feminine aspects to my analyses and calculations.

I should say that I feel much more respected by colleagues in my specific field of research. It's just these old guys in my department who think I have nothing important to say and certainly shouldn't be consulted on matters of importance.

Later I may describe my pathetic and failed attempts to dress more professorially.