Archive for the 'gender' category

Sometimes people are just assholes

Jan 11 2012 Published by under academia, gender

The other day my new lab had a happy hour to ring in the new year. I have also just landed a new grad student (WOO HOO) and also convinced a super-awesome high-level research scientist* to join my group. I'm seriously psyched. 🙂

While my newly-expanded group was all sitting around a table I realized all of the sudden that we are overwhelmingly female. Including undergrads and rotation students right now we are 7 women and 1 man. Weird! When I first started my lab we were pretty close to 1:1 but when numbers are small it is easy to fluctuate pretty quickly, I guess. I'm really happy with my group right now. Everyone is engaged and works together really well. I don't really care how many X or Y chromosomes we have.

Shortly after noticing that my lab had skewed in one direction someone on twitter made a comment about how the gender distribution of their lab was skewed (I'm not sure who started the thread-the first one in my timeline is @27andaphd). As expected with low n numbers, there were labs that were mostly male, and some that were mostly female. No big deal, right. But then the conversation took a weird turn. Someone* mentioned that they were in a male-dominated group and that this was good because they don't like to work with women because "I'm a hard ass". This was followed by @agreenmonster who tweeted:

I have a big problem here. This is an idea that gets kicked around a lot. The idea that women who are faculty are somehow not as rigorous as their male colleagues. And the ones that are competent are mean or psycho or evil and "pull up the ladder" because they don't want junior women to succeed.


Yes, there are some women academics that are assholes. There are also men down the hall that are assholes. Sometimes, people are just assholes. It has nothing to do with their gender. But there is a common stereotype that women are worse than men. And THIS is the kind of attitude that makes it hard to be a women in the sciences. If you get along with everyone you are "soft" and probably not rigorous. Maternal, maybe. But if you are a hard-ass then you are a "psycho" that is "pulling up the ladder". This is a ridiculous double standard. If this is what you expect from a woman scientist, then this is what you will perceive. It will be a self-fulfilling prophesy And it is FUCKED UP.

There are some shitty mentors out there. Some of them are women. But not all of them. If we only highlight the women that are assholes this leads to a perception that women and men are different. This sets the bar for all women, and it makes the whole academic situation harder. Because now, if you are a woman in academia you might try to behave in such a way that everyone won't think that you are "psycho". Maybe you try not to be aggressive or "bitchy" (the feminine of aggressive, to some). Now you are perceived as less rigorous or engaged. You can't win.

We have to stop this. If you hear this kind of bullshit, call it out. The twitter conversation about this topic ended with everyone agreeing that assholes gonna be assholes. And hopefully convinced some folks that they can't let these kinda statements just fly by without comment.

There is no such thing as a "male" way to do science. There is just culture and the way groups interact. I'm kinda a hard-ass, myself. I've been told that my lab has a pretty "male" culture**. In my group, I expect a lot of people. It's OK to be wrong, because if you are never wrong you are Doing It Wrong. But you have to be willing to defend your ideas and recognize when your arguments fail. Sometimes discussions get pretty animated (even aggressive). But we all understand that, while it is OK to be wrong, it is not OK to be disrespectful. You can tell someone their idea is full of shit, but it's not personal. Attacking ideas is expected, attacking people is not tolerated. There is nothing "male" about that. It is just kick-ass science.


*since they have a protected twitter account I won't list them by name here.

**don't worry-I also make sure the person that said this knew how fucked up it was.

NOTE ADDED IN PROOF: Hermie totally scooped me!!! Make sure that you go and read her views on this, which are spot-on.

[edited to remove my html cheating]

32 responses so far

fucking awesome (chapter 2)

Dec 23 2011 Published by under awesomeness, gender

I am apparently on a mission to restore (my own?) faith in humanity this week! This entry was brought to my attention by the Most Fantastic Tideliar on the twitter. If you can read this without getting all warm and fuzzy then I don't think we can be friends:

One Teacher's Approach to Preventing Gender Bullying in a Classroom

My job is not to judge, but to teach, and I can’t teach if the students in my class are distracted or uncomfortable. My job is also about preparing students to be a part of our society, ready to work and play with all kinds of people. I found that teaching about gender stereotypes is another social justice issue that needs to be addressed, like racism or immigrant rights, or protecting the environment.

I think this is the first time ever I wished I lived in Wisconsin. And I'm gonna forward this link to Mini-G's preschool teacher. Just Awesome 😀

One response so far

WTF?! "Equal" Pay Day

Apr 11 2011 Published by under academia, gender

It is not news that, on average, men make more than women to do the same job. This year 12 April is Equal Pay day. From the AAUW website:

Equal Pay Day is the symbolic point at which the average woman's salary finally catches up to the average man's earnings from the previous year. This year, Equal Pay Day falls on April 12.

How fucking much does that suck?!?!!! It really blows my mind that this is state of affairs. It may be that some women "choose" jobs that are lower-paying because it works better for their family. I don't have a problem with this, really. Everyone has to make decisions that are best for their family and situation. It strikes me, however, that it is overwhelmingly the woman that ends up passing on a career for the good of the family. I can't help but wonder about how society exerts pressures on us that maybe we aren't even aware of.

When I was negotiating my faculty position, I had heard that women make less than men on the tenure track because they just don't ask for more. I work at a public institution, and the salaries of all government employees are publicly available. I had also looked up the numbers for my state on the AAUP Faculty Salary Survey. So I knew going in to the negotiations that women in every department of my university makes ~10% less than their male counterparts. I find this rather embarrassing, but the data are there. In fact, other recently hired women in my MRU made significantly less than men. When I got my offer, the salary was lower than what I had been expecting based on my research. So I asked for more. That's the right answer, yes? But when I brought up salary during the negotiations, mentioning what I considered relevant similar salaries. But my Chair did not find this a very convincing argument, even after I raised up the fact that women in the school routinely make less than men. I think that he knew I would probably not walk away from the job over this amount of salary. It was only when I reminded him that I would be bringing in indirect $ from Day 1 (from my R00) that he agreed to talk to the Dean. In the end, I got what I think is a pretty fair deal. Could a man have done better? I don't know. Based on the data, I can only say "probably". Maybe I could have pushed harder. But, being a woman, that could also have backfired.

So I don't know what the right answer is. But today I will advertise Equal Pay Day, and I will attend the local AAUW event. I hope that by raising up  this problem, we can start the process of correcting the situation.

h/t to Pascale over at WhizBang, who brought "Equal" pay day to my attention.

UPDATE: Don't miss these other excellent "Equal" Pay Day posts on Scientopia:

Pascale-$16,819 for a Penis
Dr. Beccca-Equal Pay Day Epic FAIL
GrrlScientist-Penis Parity Day

And while you are at it, make sure you call your Congress/Senate Critters to make sure they support the Paycheck Fairness Act, which is being reintroduced today.

MOAR UPDATE! Even more "Equal" Pay Day posts at Scientopia

Janet Stemwedel-Equal Pay Day: there is power in a union
FCS-Good Hair Day, Fair Pay Day
PLS-Equal Pay Day!

9 responses so far

true colors?

Mar 11 2011 Published by under academia, colleagues, exhaustion, gender, hiring

As you may know, my department is in the middle of a junior faculty search. I went through the search process as a candidate last year, but this year I'm sitting in the room on the other side of the process. It is...illuminating. The process has certainly made me see some of my new colleagues from a very different perspective.

First, the statistics: we had almost 600 applicants for our position. 30-50 were very, very good. We picked less than 1/4 of these to interview.

I noticed that there were several women that disclosed in their application that they were married to male scientists that would also be looking for a job. Many of these women were REALLY good. In fact, I would say that all of the men were the trailing spouses. We did not interview ANY of these women (or men). I would like to know who gave these applicants the HORRIBLE advice to disclose this info in the initial job packet. Negotiating a two-body issue is something that happens after a job offer has been made. Please, women of the sciences that aspire to the tenure track: DO NOT MENTION YOUR MARITAL STATUS IN YOUR COVER LETTER.

And now, a thing that really pisses me off: the extra scrutiny. I have noticed that the white d00ds that I work with have a habit of looking at certain candidates a little more closely than normally. Not in a good way. For instance, when women did not mention a 2-body problem, there was generally some discussion about whether we could "guess" if there was a second body. This was NEVER brought up for male candidates, though I assume that the men were just as likely to be married to another scientist. But the real kicker was that EVERY single non-white sounding name would lead my colleagues to reveal that they are assholes. People would wonder whether their English was "understandable". Yes, we do some teaching in our department. BUT SERIOUSLY, these are folks that have had a very successful postdoc. They wrote papers and gave talks at conferences. Many have been in the US since they were undergraduates. WTF?!

And then, there were a few instances of bad behavior that made me so mad that I wanted to throw something. I am not going to go into details with these, because I would like to maintain some level of pseudonymity. These events often involved ridiculous statements made directly to candidates. And this is when everyone was supposed to be on their best behavior!! I tried to "nudge" my more senior colleagues when I witnessed these incidents. I tried to explain why their "innocent" statements were offensive (in the most respectful way possible). On one occasion I was so horrified that I even went to the Chair to make sure he knew what was going on.

So, here is a question for my esteemed reader(s): as a junior faculty, should I just shut my trap and keep my head down? Or should I keep pointing out when things are fucked up, in the hopes that I will be able to "nudge" the d00ds to behave better?

56 responses so far

>Well, crap. There it is.

May 19 2010 Published by under gender

>OK, now I get it. I have been lucky, as a women in science, to not be personally affected (that I know of) by the gender discrimination. I was thinking of how lucky I was recently, reading the posts by Dr. Isis and drdrA. I was always willing to accept that gender discrimination happened in science...but since I never saw it I figured that it must be somewhere else. Somewhere less, well, "enlightened". But last night I was introduced full-steam to what I had been missing.

Backdrop: I am in a somewhat unique situation, as I have recently landed a tt asst prof job in the same city that I did (am doing) my postdoc. Postdoc Institute is a fantastic place to learn science. The atmosphere is collegial and collaborative, and I did pretty well. I was really excited to land a job at BigU down the street, in a great dept. with some super people. Many of the folks that I have known for many years as a postdoc are now prof-level colleagues. Some even have affiliate positions in my new Dept. So, I guess that the relationships I have with these people is changing some as a transition into my new independent place.

Which brings me, finally, to last night. I was at a dinner for an invited speaker. I had felt pretty good that the faculty that was arranging the event had thought to invite me. So, I'm sitting in this room full of older (all white) men, including my postdoc mentor, when all of the sudden a conversation about selecting students/postdocs starts up. All of the sudden I (the only female in the room, and maybe the only jr faculty) am sitting in the middle of a conversation about how women from families with divorced parents (actually the words used were "broken homes") are likely to have "daddy issues" and can be a real drag to have in the lab. The whole conversation was a big joke for them.

WTF? Are you kidding me? Seriously? I just sat there, silence. To his credit, my postdoc mentor looked pretty uncomfortable. But he didn't say anything, either.


2 responses so far

« Newer posts