Friday, November 9, 2012

Be the change you want

This has nothing to do with the US election.

Last year, when on the job market, and looking up random people's websites at schools interesting looking department, I noticed that when a department had lots of pictures of young fathers with pictures of their children on their website, it made me feel like that might be a department I would be comfortable in, were I to work there. Then I noticed that there were no women, in any departments who had pictures of their children on their front page, and I wondered whether I should put up a picture of myself with Epsilon on my webpage.

I'm still on the job market. I'm at a new place, so my webpage needed to be brought over. I've decided to come out as a parent.

Yes, I know, in some ways, this is a stupid move. But moving here has made me mad. These last few months, I find myself living in possibly the most sexists environment that I have encountered in the developed world*. For the first time in my career, I feel like I have no role models near me, and I hear much more about the paucity of role models from the grad students down the hall than I ever did in the US. So, yeah. I'm mad. And anger leads me to do stupid things. Maybe this will effect me poorly. Maybe it won't. I'll probably never know. But I feel like someone has to step up to the plate.






*Visits to my family, who, as all diaspora do, still think they are living in the old county of 45 years ago, is not being counted for this analysis. 

16 comments:

  1. I never know whether to let people know I have a son either. I learned at the Society for Neuroscience meeting last year that if men put on their CV that they've served as class parent or did volunteer work at their kid's school that it's viewed as something positive, whereas if women put this on their CV, it is viewed as negative... I think it's good to try and turn this around, because it sounds like some old fashioned sexism.

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  2. Old fashioned is too kind a word. Wife beating is old fashioned sexism. Discriminating against mothers seems to still be in style. ;)

    Thanks for the support though.

    I've found that an easier step than putting a picture on my webpage has been to be vocal about being a mother in my department and at conferences. Since I am there in the room, I have some control on how the news is perceived immediately. What others say later behind my back is still out of my control.

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  3. I don't think you did stupid thing. Wherever I go I mention my two kids and family (I am also in job market). This is part of my life and I do not want to hide and pretend that they don't exist. I want them to appreciate that I am trying to be very competitive even after all these responsibilities against that dude whom they hired who have no responsibility, no future vision and he just happened to be from a big group so he has tons of publications but his role was mere technician there. If they don't understand it, they don't deserve me or you.

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  4. That's very brave of you, to be outspoken about your family like that at job interviews. All the career advice I've ever heard (and you as well, if you are female, probably) advises against it, which is why I don't think I'd have the courage to do what you are doing. While I'd love the luxury of rejecting every job offer that seemed to have too sexist a workplace environment, I know that it is not realistic. We'll see how the cards fall. Good luck to you on your search.

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  5. “I want them to appreciate that I am trying to be very competitive even after all these responsibilities against that dude whom they hired who have no responsibility..”

    Ouch...with all due respect, that sounds extremely unfair to the so called dude with no responsibility. With no population crisis in sight, it isnt exactly a huge favor to humanity to propagate your DNA. You made your choices in life and the dude with no responsibilities made his. If you feel your choices have adversely affected your academic output, thats nobodys fault.

    Your complaint is valid only if someone prefers an equally qualified dude over you simply because you are a mom. But if your academic output, which should be the only consideration for an academic job, falls short of the said dude, you cant make excuses.

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  6. Mocklion, two points: 1)I do not understand how you can be so considerate when it comes to listening to my complaining/worrying about my job prospects while raising a kid, yet you are so harsh on others for expressing the same sentiments, albeit more radically.
    2) There is a difference between efficiency and productivity. I think my responder's comment, put less militantly, is about the need for employers to recognize this difference. A person undergoing a short term external drain on her resources, may be more efficient, even though she appears less productive. Once the external drain passes, the more efficient candidate will be more productive than an inefficient productive candidate. If I am on the hiring committee, and I have the long term interests of the department in mind, I would want the efficient over the productive. I am not saying that being a mother is a proxy for efficiency. I am saying that there is more that should go into a hiring decision than number of papers produced.

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  7. 1) Thats because I know you Barefoot personally and I am not involved with you professionally. We had a classmate in college who suffered from chronic depression, we would all commiserate with him, but NOT cheat for him on an exam!

    2) Of course, more should be involved in a decision than number of papers...quality, for instance!! But as you can see, its extremely difficult to measure efficiency in this case. Maybe this Anon is just a sloppy mom AND a sloppy academic. Even if this person is efficient, what guarantee is there that after 6-7 years out of low productivity, this person will just bounce back with a vengeance? In the absence of evidence, why should someone just assume the best about this anon, especially when in the stack of 500+ applications, there is probably a dude with tons of publications, and even a mom with tons of publications?

    We all deal with students and we all know students systematically overestimate their performance. On top of that, if I were to accommodate every possible excuse students make, I would lose my mind.

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  8. Mocklion, no one is suggesting cheating or foul play anywhere. I think (hope) a hiring committee has more information, insight about a person's capability than you or I do based on a single comment on a single blog post.

    "we all know students systematically overestimate their performance. On top of that, if I were to accommodate every possible excuse students make, I would lose my mind"

    Lucky for you, you are not on the relevant hiring committee, and no one asked you to judge this person. You get to keep your mind for the time being.


    "In the absence of evidence, why should someone just assume the best about this anon, especially when in the stack of 500+ applications, there is probably a dude with tons of publications, and even a mom with tons of publications? "

    You have no evidence of the number or quality of other applications. Nor the genders or parental status of the others. Why should you, or I, or anyone assume the best about this person, or any other person we have a chance encounter with in life Mocklion? I do wonder.....

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  9. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  10. Anonymous, I am very sorry that your comment venting frustration on my blog has drawn the ire of Mocklion. I do not feel like it is appropriate or polite to keep speculating about you or your situation without you around. I hope that this bad experience does not deter you, or other readers, from this space. I would like this blog to be a place where people feel safe to exchange stories, vent their own frustrations and express their opinions without directly insulting each other.

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  11. its ok, BD. It doesn't disturb me anymore. I have seen this kind of behavior all the time. This is just the excuse by people who don't want to judge other scientists by quality, but by quantity. It is easier to count the number of articles rather than try to understand the person's intelligence, read different articles written by the person to see if she/he has a broad training to be able to do a PI's job.

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  12. Also on your comments on career advises about not talking family issues. I personally think that everyone (male and female) should be encouraged to talk about their family issues. This issues are important for everyone in making a decision about a job. This also makes one more human. Once you decide to call someone for interview based on their strong CV, other factors should be discussed. I don't believe this makes him/her less of a scientist. I consider this a hypocrisy.

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  13. Antisocial ScientistNovember 12, 2012 at 1:55 PM

    I just want to interject here that in the US you cannot bring up things such as family status when hiring. (As the applicant, you are free to bring whatever you want up) As important as you may feel it to be, your HR department will have a collective heart attack if you try to talk about it, even in a positive way.

    I also must agree with BD here, in that it is far better as an applicant to not let them have any reason not to hire you (even discriminatory, bad reasons) until they have made the offer and you hold the cards. All it takes is one dinosaur who believes that mothers can't be scientists (who you would never have to interact with if hired) to throw a spanner in the works.

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  14. Message for Mocklion: it is your kind of insensitivity that often makes academia a hostile work environment for women.

    BD, Inspired by your post, I have put up some non-science personal stuff at the bottom of my webpage as well :) I was worried about putting it up before, but what the heck!

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  15. I am glad to have inspired you, New Prof.

    In Mocklion's favor, he has apologized to me personally for his comments on this page. Also, as far as I know of him, he keeps most of his thoughts to himself.

    That being said, I worry about the women who work with Mocklion for the attitudes and comments that may slip out.

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  16. I think it is best to clarify the situation. Barefoot, you have already removed my comment that I told you later was a bit over the edge. I fully stand by all my other comments which are still visible above.

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