Guest Post: What happens when trivial sexism is ignored?

14 Nov

Tenure, She Wrote

Today’s post is by a guest author, graduate student SquirrellyRed. She shares a recent experience about what happens when small acts of (benevolent) sexism add up to create a broader culture of hostility towards women.

Given Acclimatrix’s recent post on how gender equality needs to be a collaborative venture in academia, I thought it’d be helpful to share a story about what could – and in this case, did – happen when some of those points that seem trivial or harmless (especially #2) are ignored – and how the effects are amplified the further down the academic totem pole you travel.

As a PhD student in a mid-size biology lab at a large Midwestern R1 university, my group includes a team of undergraduate research technicians that I help supervise. In my lab’s case, all of the undergrad helpers are female students in biology related majors (woohoo!). They are…

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I’m your professor, not your therapist!

11 Nov

Tenure, She Wrote

One of the things that I’ve found I’m completely unprepared for as a new teacher and academic advisor is the level of emotion the students bring with them to talk with me.  I’m just not a public crier, so it always startles me when someone lets the waterworks go during what seems to me to be a relatively benign conversation.  Not that I never empty a box of Kleenex while watching a tearjerker with a group of friends, or think that crying in front of others makes you weak – it’s just not me. This has left me at a loss for what to do when someone breaks down in my office.  Politely ignore?  Offer Kleenex?  Ask details?  I should have paid better attention when friends talked about their experiences being the crier or the cryee! 

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Creating a lab culture

8 Nov

Tenure, She Wrote

I think I can now legitimately claim that I have a “lab”: I welcomed my first graduate student this fall, I have an ambitious undergraduate working in my lab, and will soon welcome a postdoc. I have been contacted by several new prospective students, and am thinking about how each of them might fit into the lab. Consequently, I’ve been thinking a lot this semester about the inaugural post by Acclimatrix on what kind of mentor I want to be, and what my own strengths and weaknesses as a mentor are. I have a good idea about what works for my own personal and professional development, but how do I ensure that my students are successful and happy as they progress through their careers? I realize that not all of that is up to me, but I want to at least provide the appropriate conditions for my students to…

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Guest Post: What I did on my furlough “vacation.”

1 Nov

Tenure, She Wrote

Today’s post is a little different. We’re featuring a guest contribution from microbiologist Laura Williams, who was impacted by the recent government shutdown. You can follow her at @MicroWavesSci. Enjoy!

On October 1, I was furloughed from my position as a postdoc at a federal agency because of the government shutdown. This agency will remain nameless because I am not supposed to talk about the furlough, the government shutdown or the ridiculous mess in Congress in any official capacity. So, nameless it will remain. After a little over two weeks of ridiculous Congressional theatrics, a deal was struck, and I returned to work along with 800,000 other federal employees.

My unexpected furlough “vacation” prompted me to think a lot about what it means to be a scientist.

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I can haz job? Tips and tricks for the academic interview

28 Oct

Tenure, She Wrote

The job season is in full swing, which means those of you on the job market are probably anxiously checking and re-checking your email for an update about your applications. If you’ve done the work of putting together a really compelling application package, and you’ve pitched yourself appropriately, and you’re a good fit for the jobs you’ve applied for (yes, it’s a real thing), you can probably expect to get an interview at some point in your job-hunting future. I’ve had a bit of success with interviews and been on a couple of search committees (if you haven’t done this yet, I urge you to do so! It’s really valuable!). Given that the interview season is just starting up, I wanted to share my thoughts as a recent hire with the folks still in the trenches. Some of this will vary by discipline, so I’ve tried to keep this as…

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Fem(me)inity in the field

27 Oct

“Instead of saying we don’t care about what people wear, or what people wear doesn’t matter, or that everyone should wear suits or dress for digging a soil pit everyday, let’s acknowledge that the clothes we wear have meaning and then choose not to discriminate based on that meaning.”

Tenure, She Wrote

On the left: Ask me about my research! Photo: Betsy Hartley. On the right: Ask me about my shoes! Photo.

I asked my (male) PhD adviser how I should dress/pack before our first conference together, expecting a response along the lines of “casual” or “business casual,” and he was confused by my question. “Just wear clothes,” he said. Which, I have to admit, is sound advice, but really wasn’t very helpful. [gilly, writing here]

A (frequently white, male) scientist will usually tell you that you can wear whatever you want as a scientist. That it’s not about what you wear, but how comfortable you feel. After all, as objective scientists, we’re more interested in your data than your fashion sense. Just listen to Dr. Zen:1

My experience is that scientists are almost immune to snappy outfits. This is more true in some fields than others, though…

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A day in the life…

27 Oct

Tenure, She Wrote

As a post-doc, I did three things: I did research, analyzed data, and I wrote. I ran behavioral experiments and western blots, I did a lot of data analysis.

There were other things – I worked with students in the lab, and I organized events with the Post-doc Association at the post-doc institution. Later I applied for jobs, a significant time commitment, especially in the second year. It isn’t that I had a lot of free time, but I did have a lot of flexibility. When a grant deadline was coming up, or a set of experiments to (hopefully) finish off a paper, I could clear blocks of time and focus on that one thing. This – and my friends in that town – are the only things that I’m nostalgic about from my postdoc.

That is not what my days look like anymore. Now I have a few other…

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Don’t Be a Creep, and other lessons from the latest scandal in the science blogging world [Slate]

18 Oct

Don’t Be a Creep, and other lessons from the latest scandal in the science blogging world [Slate]

By Laura Helmuth.

Now, you established people, listen up. You will occasionally meet younger people who go out of their way to speak with you at professional events, ask you interesting and sometimes personal questions, and hang on your every word. Those are not puppy-dog, crushed-out eyes staring up at you. These are eyes hungry for a professional break. These people are not trying to sleep with you. They are trying to get hired by you. . . .

It can be hard to tell the difference between flirtation and exuberance. The men and the women who approach me are doing exactly what they should do at a professional meeting: introducing themselves, expressing enthusiasm for what I do, asking questions, making clever conversation. They are looking for guidance, not lechery. It’s my job to interpret their behavior correctly.

When I hear a story of harassment, what do I do?

17 Oct

Tenure, She Wrote

Recently I was at the periphery of a conversation in which women, in a completely different field than mine, were talking about an experience one had during an interview, during which inappropriate comments were made. While completely sympathetic, another woman said: “You were lucky you weren’t at University X, where it would have been much worse.”  That conversation and recent events in the online science community got me thinking about how often these quiet confidences are exchanged.

While I have only heard a few stories of sexual harassment or assault in my field, I’m not naïve enough to think that I’m in the one profession in the entire world that is entirely populated by people who behave appropriately at all times. So it seems like only a matter of time before I hear a story, or stories, that hit close to home professionally…before I hear a story where I have…

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College Men: Stop Getting Drunk [NY Mag: The Cut]

17 Oct

College Men: Stop Getting Drunk [NY Mag: The Cut]

A parody by Ann Friedman. Helps to have first read the Emily Yoffe piece linked at the top of the article.

EDIT: And here’s Soraya Chemaly on the same piece. Which led to a pleasant coda: