Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Appearances Deceive

While out hunting for a reagent this week,* I ran into my only female committee member.**

-I heard you did an interesting paper for journal club.
-Errr… ?
-The NAS report.
-Ah. That. Yes. My lab stared at me like I was a lunatic.

So we talked for a while about the most egregious things still outstanding- which have been much blogged- including our respective shocks when we found out plus ça change, etc., and my personal favorite: the thing where a woman needs about 5 times more impact factor points to get tenure or funding. Will Snooty U will ever do anything about it? We say it's very Magic 8 Ball: Outlook not so good. Reply hazy, try again. Don't count on it.

She’s single, works eighty hours a week, and makes nice with the chair. I therefore assumed she had bought into the don't-rock-the-boat mentality and the status quo, to get ahead. Quite the opposite.

“I thought it would be better than in Germany,” she said, “because there are 4% women professors there. But it is not good. It is worse because people think it is all better here. It is terrible. It is ridiculous. It is a DISGRACE!”

Under that tall, quiet, mild-mannered exterior is one pissed-off scientist.

Tomorrow: Hiring and Firing and Old White Men, Oh My!

*Surprisingly similar to borrowing a cup of sugar.
**Because there are four. In the whole department.


  1. Anonymous5:30 PM

    Yeah, it's pretty damn crappy! And when you think about it, we in Biology are way ahead of disciplines like Physics! How depressing is THAT.

    And what's with your lab looking at you like you were a lunatic?!

    It's always nice to know when your female mentors are just as pissed underneath as we are about this stuff. I remember clearly one conversation that I had with my PhD advisor, where she talked about this stuff with me. And all along I thought she was the type of "it makes no difference that I am a woman. I am a scientist, period." Turns out she WAS that way, in grad school. But once she was a post-doc and then a tenure-track faculty, her mind was changed.

    Eighty hours a week: this, when one comes down to it, is why I am quitting. My love of biology just does NOT extend to doing it for 80 hours a week. I like my husband and dogs too much! :)

  2. Anonymous6:16 PM

    Glad you found someone to comiserate with!

  3. Anonymous2:35 AM

    I always wonder what we can do. Need to nework, but how? I have no female advisors, or women to comiserate with. Feel a bit scared sometimes.

  4. Turtlebella: My lab? All men. And yeah, physics *is* even worse (shudder). And yes, absolutely, the hours are set up to favor people with stay-at-home spouses; I firmly believe this model is detrimental to practically all young scientists.

    I'm always amazed either when people haven't yet realized that women in science still! have! problems!, or when they look calm on the outside. Are they doing anything about it? Maybe. Not fast enough.

    NSLS, well, I take it where I can get it. :)

    Jokerine: It's a hard question, how to make it better. I think 'raising consciousness' can't hurt, and pointing out nonsense when one encounters it. Other than that: time and anger? And really? Nobody to commiserate with? You can always find sympathy here!

    The lack of mentors is a big problem. I personally think it leads to feeling a bit nuts: is is just me? Am I imagining this? Does it really suck this much? The resulting feelings of stress and isolation are, I think, one of the main reasons women leave grad school (and postdocs, and faculty jobs) disproportionately.

    Do you have any female colleagues (other students); could you go out for drinks regularly; say, every 2 weeks? Women or profs in nearby departments (bio, physics, even math?) you could invite out for coffee and sympathy? I assume there's no mentoring set up already (pity). Is there an email list so you could get in touch with other women?


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