wimminz in academia answers!! (archived from LabSpaces)

originally posted 14 Dec 2010

A while ago Hermitage organized a baby-free Q&A about being a woman in academia. That technically describes me (female, academic), and I have agreed to answer the 4 questions that she gathered from her “muffins” (her words, not mine Dr. Isis!). The only rule: I will not talk about babies AT ALL! So here goes:

1. How do you command the attention, and respect, of men in academic settings (e.g. classroom, conferences, faculty meetings)?
I don’t know that I have ever thought about “commanding” attention. I just do my thing and let things go as they will. I am not a shy person, which certainly helps. It is really important, I think, to speak up. You need to ask questions, give talks, etc. That way, people have a chance to appreciate your smarts. I ask hard questions (respectfully). I know that my colleagues respect me. I earned that respect, just like everyone must, IMO. I guess the short answer is: I ignore people that don’t want to pay attention to me and get shit done. Eventually folks realize that I am smart and effective and they ignore me, well, I’m not the one that is any worse off.

I’m not sure that this answer is very helpful. But the more I think about it, and other succesful women academics, I have never seen any of them do anything to command attention or respect. But they had all earned it, without having to ask.

2. How should women dealing with a two-body problem handle assumptions that their career is secondary to their partner’s?
I have nothing to add here, but that won’t stop me! I did not have a two-body problem, as my SO left the bench after grad school. I guess that I would say probably it depends a lot on who is the “assumer”. If you have a supportive partner than who the fuck cares what others “assume”?  I would add, though, that in the faculty search we are conducting right now all of the two-body issues (that we know of) have a male trailing spouse. 

3. What would you like to see from tenure-track and not-yet-tenure-track menfolk? How can they pitch in?
I guess that I would be nice if there were more of “that guy“. The one that calls the old white d00ds out when they are being asshats*. There is only so much that I can do myself, because of limited energy and political considerations.

4. How do you deal with insinuations that you were only chosen for a position/award/etc because of affirmative action?
I have actually had folks bring this up to me. It was not a secret that my dept. was under pressure to become less old, white and male when they hired me. But you know what? I DON’T CARE. I have the position, I have gotten the awards, I publish the papers. If others want to spin their wheels getting all upset, then so be it. This will not affect me.

It seems to me after going through all of these questions that most (1, 2, 4) are related to self confidence at some level. I remember realizing, as a 1st year grad student, that the “most succesful” folks in my program and dept. weren’t the ones that sat quietly in the room. So I started talking. I was terrified of asking “stupid” questions. But I got over it. Fake it to make it, I guess. Now I’m confortable standing up for my ideas and contributing to the scientific discourse. And I think that has helped me to earn what respect I have as a n00b on the TT.

And there is my 2 cents. If there are other wimminz out there, please feel free to add your views! And go check out the answers from the other “panelists”!

*I feel like there was another post on this topic, maybe from Abel Pharmboy (?). But I can’t find it now.

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About gerty-z

scientist, mom, runner, beverage lover
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