What a great Tuesday!!

Jun 14 2011 Published by under awesomeness, grants

I have just got news that one of my pending grants will be funded. It is not the holy grail of the R01, but it is a big deal for me. YAY!!

This news was greatly appreciated, especially after the last few days that i have spent in a "workshop" for my subfield. There have been some good interactions, but for some reason there seems to be a trend of senior folks being rather condescending. It is a little exhausting.

One thing that I have noticed over the course of this workshop, however, is the difference in the way that young women and men present their research. Each of the trainees (senior postdocs and new junior faculty) at this workshop presents a potential grant outline in order to get pre-submission feedback. Many of the data are preliminary, as they should be. What i have noticed is that most of the females are timid, almost apologetic, during these talks and the question and answer session. The men don't seem to have this problem, and do a much better job of defending their proposals. I don't understand this at all. The women here are successful and have good data and ideas. So why are they so less confident? I really don't understand this phenomenon at all.

Ladies, we have to do better!! I get that it can be intimidating to stand up in front of a small group of the big names in the field...but that is no excuse. Do whatever you have to in order to appear more confident. FAKE it if you have to. Try to emulate the behavior of good (confident) speakers, male and female. Practice more so that you are more comfortable. But we have got to stop standing up and seeming so timid. If you don't (seem) to believe in your data, there is no way your audience will.

12 responses so far

  • Zee says:

    OMG I notice this at conferences all the time and drives me nuts. I try hard to fix it with the undergrads that I work with but it is soooo difficult. I just keep telling them just because you *feel* intimidated doesn't mean you have to *act* intimidated. Also supremely difficult... breaking them of ending every sentence with a question like upward infliction (valley girl style).

  • katiesci says:

    I am still working on this myself because there seems to be a fine line with women acting confident and being cocky/ jerkish. Maybe I feel that way because I was raised "North Dakota nice". In any case, I agree! I'm improving and trying to encourage other young women to do the same!

  • Miss MSE says:

    Alan Alda has some really interesting stuff about improv as a way to improve scientific communication. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtdyA7SibG8)

    I find that having someone try and do an aggressive, dramatic voice (think Movie Announcer Guy) is a surprisingly good trick from getting rid of the Valley Girl lilt. Just reading a completely random paragraph from a book in front of an small audience can be good practice. A lot of people have never developed confidence speaking at all, so helping them establish that, even if they aren't fully confident in their science, can help.

    I fall very firmly on the "confident" side, but these tricks have helped friends in group presentations.

  • GMP says:

    I find that several years of teaching large lecture classes does a lot to relax you in terms of public speaking. (I also taught high school part-time for a few years before starting grad school -- trust me, high school kids are waaay scarier than BigWig profs, especially when you are 22.)
    It's important to get used to/relaxed being exposed to an audience and thinking on your feet while exposed; next to actually giving a zillion research talks, teaching is a great way to achieve this.

  • odyssey says:

    Way to go G-Z on the grant!!!!

  • brooksphd says:

    Fuckin awesome on the grant Gerty!!

  • Dr Becca says:

    ZOMG congrats on the grant, Gerty! SUPERSTAR!!

  • gerty-z says:

    Thanks, Odyssey, Brooks and Dr. Becca! πŸ™‚

    I don't know what the best way to get trainees to quit acting so intimidated. I only vaguely remember what it was like when I was still a timid little n00b, but even when I was still working on building my confidence I don't think I was ever so timid as the young women I see at these meetings. I think that you have to give a lot of talks to feel (more) comfortable giving talks. But at some point, these young women need to OWN the fact that what they are doing is good and worth talking about. Can you teach that? If so, how?

    • odyssey says:

      A balance of praise/encouragement and criticism*/questioning. One place we can all do this relatively easily is at poster sessions. Draw them out by asking questions. Make them explain the what/why/wheres of their work.

      Yes, they're adults, but the process is similar to instilling confidence in your kids. Just never, ever be condescending. Or (for us d00ds) paternal.

      * Gentle criticism. Unless the opposite is warranted. Even then, don't go overboard and drive them out of science.

  • Fia says:

    Dear Gerty, what a timely post.
    I got a grant assessment (rejected) back yesterday, which literally said: very good proposal, excellent study, but too pushy and not modest enough on the personal statement. Said statement was not too overly pushy, as was told to me by my advisor and others. I wonder whether if I would be man, it would have been different.
    We women still get punished for being not modest enough, and anybody who ever got such an evaluation back will think twice before raising her voice. Although I try to not let it through, and despite positive remarks from all sides, I start doubting myself. Despite knowing all about then psychological processes and social pressures, I start wondering whether it's worth to change my personality appearance and act more timid to please male ass-hatting reviewers, in order to get funded.
    PS: you rock forgetting your grant! Congrats!

  • drugmonkey says:

    congrats on the award!

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