Friday, July 14, 2006

The Annoying Week Is Over

This week was crummy. Not awful, not great, just irritating. Just a bunch of stupid little things.

Something I ordered two weeks ago never came in. The admin went out of town. Took a while to get the PO# and the phone # of the company.

Called and left a message; got called back; tag you're it; finally got the answer that it had been shipped out 2 weeks late and they didn't know why; yes they will reimburse me for the 2-day shipping charge.

In the meantime I had to call a friend and beg what I needed off a lab full of people I'd never met before. I did a lot of that in grad school and still dream of a day when I can save those favors for something worthwhile instead of administrative screwups!

The administrators also screwed up something with my benefits, so I had to go in not once but TWICE to sign stuff, and it's still not fixed. Not clear whether I'll get my paychecks on time this month (or at all).

Then a staffer told me I couldn't reserve a room for a meeting, but I found out through semi-secret channels how to do it online and ended up solving the problem that way. Why the STAFF seem unaware that it's possible to do this, I don't know.

Had to move some stuff in the boiling heat, that was great fun. Sweaty, stinky, exhausting fun. Didn't have time to go swimming, either.

Am starting some new projects that involve me being in the extreme minority as a female. I'm trying to get used to this concept of walking into a room and being the only woman there, but it's still weird. Definitely limits what I can convince myself to wear to work. Makes getting dressed in the morning one of the most stressful parts of my day.

Oh and did I mention dealing with everyone else's bad mood? Apparently nobody had a good week.

The upshot of all this:

Wasted a lot of time in meetings & dealing with administrative shit this week, so got no experiments done. So I didn't get my usual data fix. So I will probably want to go to work tomorrow to look at my one new piece of data & try to use that to plan something interesting to do next week. I'm afraid if I don't, I won't be able to enjoy doing anything else all weekend. Very pathetic, I know. But I might die of boredom if next week is more of this crap. And the best defense is a plan to be too busy to notice all the bullshit going on around me.

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At 8:10 AM, Blogger dlamming said...

gah, sucks to be in a place where you don't/can't order stuff yourself. :(

moving on to the big question, though... why would the gender of who you're working with change what you wear to work? especially since (I assume) you're usually working in a mixed group?

At 11:25 AM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

There's a huge difference between being the only woman and the being one of a handful. Sometimes it's the difference between being the only person wearing a skirt vs. one of a few. When you're the only female, I'm more comfortable being 'one of the guys' than being the token chick.

It's a critical mass issue. I had the same problem with my thesis committee when I was in grad school. Having one woman on the committee was insufficient, because she wouldn't speak. Adding a second one made all the difference and totally changed the dynamic.

At 3:26 PM, Blogger Dr Jim said...

Dressing decisions: That's why we wear lab coats isn't it, so we don't have to decide what to wear.

No gender bias. Just a bunch of people wearin' white.

....then it becomes a matter of who has a "fitted" coat, and who does't. Who's got the ethidium stain they're never going to remove and who's got that rather fetching dribble of Coomassie down their front.

I once wrote an exposé on laboratory fashion, but then I realised there was nothing noteworthy in it. It was one paragraph and I filed it in the bin.

At 4:52 PM, Blogger dlamming said...

I guess I'm just surprised - I never would have guessed that you wouldn't usally be outspoken and, well, "you", regardless of the set of people in the room.

More importantly though... it seems, at least to me, that the trait/dynamic of being relucatant to speak as the only female in the room might seriously impair one's career.

At 8:58 PM, Blogger Saoirse said...

Sorry this week was so bad.

I hope next week is better.

At 11:04 AM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Lab coats? Lab coats are for sissies.

So you see my problem. Sissy labcoat or make sure to hide any hint of cleavage? And in my case, we never have labcoats that are actually my size, so I look like I'm playing dress-up in my father's bathrobe. Either way, I'm not coming from a point of power.

Being outspoken and wearing outspoken clothes are two totally different things. It's possible, with some finesse, to be outspoken and yet diplomatic and professional. On the other hand, most people will judge you on your appearance and never ask whether their assumptions are correct.... I think I've posted on lab fashion issues here before....

It's also different, I'd propose, when you're new to a group than when you've known people a while and have some idea about their particular biases. Most of the guys in my lab are very professional, but there's at least one who always looks at my chest. But I like him and know this is just how he is with everyone, so I generally ignore it. With this new group, I just don't have enough data yet to know what to expect.

At 7:45 AM, Anonymous mk said...

As someone who worked for 9 years in a male dominated area of the financial industry before going back to school in the sciences, I share your irritation around clothing. I learned to deal with it by dressing more professionally than the men around me. When I've gone to visit my old professional colleagues I still see women with suit jackets and men in t-shirts. I carry this to my life as a post doc, and it helps. I keep a casual blazer in my "office" and put it over whatever I'm wearing when I go to meetings. I look and feel more authoritative. I also avoid overly youthful styles (I look younger than I am). Maybe because I was in a "professional dress" world for so long I don't have a problem with dressing for my work.

At 1:50 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

"more professionally" in my field = still t-shirts. It's not clear what professional clothing is if you work at a bench half the day and in an office when you get half an hour of time to edit papers.

And I think I'm conflicted about what's 'authoritative'. In my field, the drop-outs tend to be salespeople, and salespeople dress like your professional financiers- in suits & heels. So in that case, fashionably acceptable professional clothing equates with someone who is not a good scientist.

This is an ongoing source of angst for me... I love the comment from the person who said they'd love to spend literally zero time worrying about what to wear every day. I went to a talk today by a guy who's in town for a meeting, and he was wearing the exact same clothing he wore two days ago when he gave his first talk. Do all his clothes look the same? I couldn't get close enough to tell if it was the same set or whether they had been washed.

At 10:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not sure I like this thinking where you say:

---And I think I'm conflicted about what's 'authoritative'. In my field, the drop-outs tend to be salespeople, and salespeople dress like your professional financiers- in suits & heels. So in that case, fashionably acceptable professional clothing equates with someone who is not a good scientist---

Do you think people who drop out of grad school are not as good scientists as the ones who stick it out and hate it. I won't mention Bill Gates and the countless others like him, but I will mention that I have always thought that the people who come to service the "instrumentation" have pretty cool gigs.
HPLC service guy = really cool gig

And then we have the problem of defining and comparing the good scientist verses the person with potential to be a great scientist (and the genetics to pass it on), but we should not get in to that today.

Last, think of how the Nobel Prize winners of ~40 years ago dressed and then think of how the Professors dress today. And in what era do you think science was a more enjoyable profession (pretend you are a white male for the sake of arguement)? My opinion is that the casual culture of present science is one more example of the class warfare that is encouraged by the persons in control. An attempt to (further) turn the lab geek into a slave. Like if the average person gets a few million dollars to invest for retirement, would they go give their money to a person who wears jeans to work? No. They would not. They give it to the guy who maxed out his credit card at the Men's Warehouse. Maybe if the scientist dressed like all other familiar professionals there would not be so much ignorant stem cell debate. And I should revel that I too avoid lab coats except when absolulty needed and prefer jeans and tee shirt attire, BUT that's probably only because I'm cultured to it.


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