Thursday, January 25, 2007

Women: Be More Professional Than Men.

I've been busy of late. Some of it is good busy. Much of it is overwhelmed exhausted thankless busy.

One theme I've been hearing is with regards to the job market, which I'm not really on, but I am still taking notes for future reference. I gather little tidbits and write them here, since I think it's ridiculous that we're all expected to rediscover the wheel.

Today I learned: men can have cute websites, women can't.

Similarly, men can have cute CVs that show their enthusiasm and personality: women can't.

I've always hated this mentality, that we have to Sound Professional in order to be, you know, good at what we do.

We have to pretend like the research was done by a robot instead of a person.

Or perhaps it should be said, there is the perception that research must be done by a man or a sexless robot, but god help us all, not by a living breathing woman.

Women, says the Voice of Authority, you don't have The Unwritten Rule Book, so you better adhere strictly to all the rules.

I get this advice from both women and men, but I think the truly un-sexist men are most likely to steer me wrong. They don't realize that what men can and do get away with, or even benefit from (e.g. showing personality), in my case won't fly, and will only get me in trouble.

I'm sure it's no help that I have such a troublesome personality.

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At 3:41 AM, Anonymous JaneB said...

Couldn't agree more. I also have an 'awkward' (read: not very feminine and somewhat independent-minded) personality and my PhD supervisor was a wonderful (male) person who really was gender-blind - and had a lab with a good gender balance and a lively, open culture - we got reprimanded for NOT questioning what he told us! As you can imagine, boy were things different in my next lab - made worse by having PhD'd in the UK then post-doccing in Canada. The differences weren't all bad... but it was brought home to me forcibly that women DO have to be better, both iun their work and in their 'professional standards and behaviour' - my 'aggression' is his 'confidence', my 'negative attitude' his 'proactive approach to issues', my 'over-dramatic and emotional' comments his 'enthusiastic and committed' - plus his poor teaching means he's committed to his research... sigh!

At 2:28 PM, Blogger Gen Chem said...

Recently my fiance was asking about whether women faculty got the kind of cults of personality that some male faculty do--the ones who get the same group of students taking all their classes and adoring them--noting that he didn't know of any, and wondering why. His (female, grad student) roommate and I both immediately jumped in with essentially this argument, that women have to act professional in order to be taken seriously, and thus they don't get to be quirky or fun. I think my fiance--who is not at all sexist, as far as I can tell--is actually mildly surprised that his roommate and I think about our gender when determining our conduct, since he doesn't.

I did my BA and started my MS both with female faculty members whose recent publications I had read; both were more formal in all ways than I was entirely comfortable with. I've recently started my PhD with a male professor, and his group's papers are written much more conversationally, with the occasional comfortable (and appropriate) joke thrown in. I immediately felt more at ease with this style, and am wondering if getting used to it in this group will be a disservice to me professionally in the future.

At 4:26 PM, Blogger Dr. O. said...

Might not be all that much of a help. Here is a post by a full professor of science (woman) discussing how she sometimes becomes invisible when around male colleagues.

So frustrating. You are right. She is right. It doesn't make me want to be more staid. It makes me want to dye my hair even redder than it is, wear combat boots, and go TankGirl at conferences. But I won't. Goddammit.

At 6:52 AM, Anonymous redzils said...

I tend to agree that a) it is such bullshit that we have to be so self-conscious and perfect seeming, and b) for safety's sake it is hard to do anything else.

Good luck, and remember that having a personality is a good thing!

At 6:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that various personality flashes from men vs. women are perceived very differently. I saw an outstanding male job candidate once show a picture of his baby daughter to illustrate a point about his seminar. Everybody thought this was terribly cute. My guess is that in a female job candidate, no matter how outstanding, this would have been viewed as unprofessional.

At 11:56 PM, Anonymous Hank said...

We are in the beta period of a worldwide science community site and literate scientists who like to write - any gender is fine - are certainly welcome.

I can't speak for the university experience because I am in the private sector but we don't give a crap about gender. Good science chops are all that matter.

At 11:09 AM, Anonymous Melissa said...

I had one female physics professor as an undergrad who had a cult of personality around her--she was very tough, but also extremely funny (and I don't even like physics much). But in general, the personality cults seem much more likely to center around men (at least two of the men in my department had them).

On the bright side, both male and female professors in my with dogs got away with bringing them to work, probably because everyone likes dogs.

At 10:36 AM, Blogger B said...

In the end it is the science that should matter. Being too feminine or not feminine shouldn't even be an issue. Is the science conducted well? Are there proper controls? Can you understand the findings? Is it coherent? Are you answering a valid question? Who should care if I'm wearing a pant suit or a skirt. Pay attention to the data!


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